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Writing, the forgotten art. Or is it?

A post prompted by this tweet from Jonny Ingham:

@IHWO_YL_Ts Any suggestions for what to do with a painfully shy teenager who on paper is good but never says a word in class?

My first thought was ‘hmmm, how to get him speaking..‘ then suddenly I thought ‘Why? Why does he have to speak?‘ .

We seem to be obsessed with getting students to speak and teachers and students alike seem to believe this is the most important skill for communication blah blah blah but the ‘communicative method’, whilst perfectly fine, wasn’t really designed for today’s world was it?

OK, exaggerating, but my point is, I’m not sure teenagers actually ‘speak’ much to each other any more do they? My 13 yr old niece texts her friends during class while they are sitting next to her! and does she spend hours on the phone to her friends like I did as a teen? Hell no, she’s far too busy ‘facebooking’ and ‘inboxing’ and whatever the verb is for posting things on her tumblr to ‘express herself’.

I’m not suggesting we don’t bother teaching teens how to speak. In fact, I rather think they need this life skill more than anything to stop it becoming extinct! What I am suggesting is that speaking is perhaps not the channel teens are most comfortable and familiar with…so…to motivate them to ‘communicate’ in English, why not go with what they do in real life? I also think that ‘writing’ is something teachers think  students will hate and avoid at all costs, or set it as punishment, but maybe what we need to do is rethink how we perceive ‘writing’ and how we present it?

So, after a rather lengthy preamble, here is my answer to you Jonny…

During the IH DOS conference I had an interesting chat to David and Dianna about writing, teachers attitudes and beliefs about teaching writing, and our own ways in which we bring today’s teen world into the classroom. So here is my idea, followed by David’s even better idea, which is simple and simply fab.

Paper-based Facebook
Laughable at first thought, isn’t it? A paper based facebook, but, kids love it.! I tried this out on summer camp as a way of getting kid’s to ‘mingle’ with others that they didn’t know. I made some ‘campbook’ sheets (that I will add at the bottom of this post if I can work out how) and each student and teacher filled one in. They were then hung around the campsite and each day the kids were given time to comment, respond, write to other students. Teachers also made an effort to write and comment on the pages. We found that even the quietest of students were writing things even if it was just ‘How are you?’ or ‘Your favourite colour is pink? Me too’.

David’s idea

David encourages his students to email/ sms/inbox (whatever lingo) each other during allocated times in class. He acts as the server and all notes go through him. The only rule is that it is English only. I think this idea is great and there are so many ways it could be utilised/ adapted. How about instead of a ‘pair check’ students ‘inbox’ someone else around the room and ask for their opinion on certain answers? How about they ‘inbox’ a friend to make predictions before a reading/ listening task?

So…after all that…this is my suggestion for Johny to try with his ‘quiet’ teen 🙂

All comments welcome. I’d love to hear anyone else’s ideas for Jonny OR ideas for bringing writing back (it sounds more fun if you sing that last line JT style…I’m bringing writing back….I’m bringing writing back….).

P.S. Still planning a Puppyme post…one day soon!

campbook

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