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Thursday, 24 March 2011

Digital tools to stimulate writing in the classroom

Teaching creative writing can be incredibly difficult. First, you have to get past the 'I can't write attitude.' Most of the time this isn't an excuse students use to get out of an activity. A lot of students honestly believe they can't write. There is a subtext to this though, because every student can write, even if it is only a sentence. What they really mean is they can't write well, so what's the point? A lot of student's are exposed to great writing through films, books, music and it can be intimidating.  Then there is the second hurdle: getting students to come up with something original to write about.

Below are some activities that you can use to get the creative juices flowing!

1. Phrays is a simple site that publishes a  snazzy word definition everyday . The definition is published and phrased in a sentence. Visitors are encouraged to write and submit a sentence using the word.

Phrays can be a great tool for starting your creative writing lesson or for journal writing. Plus it encourages students to expand their vocabulary. For advanced classes why not start your own Phrays in your classroom? For homework each student would have to look up a word to share with the class. Each day a new student could present a word and definition to the class. Add incentive, get students to vote on the best sentence! You could run this on your blog/site or even just in your classroom on your white board.

Toasted Cheese is a writing prompt calender. I find this works best as a journal writing activity. I tell students not to worry about spelling or grammar. Or about how good there story is. Instead I ask them to focus on writing about the prompt.

The Imagination Prompt Generator - is another great website with writing prompts. Even though it states that it is aimed at providing ideas for blogging I find that the topics a very interesting.  

Creative Writing Prompts is another great site that provides students with ideas to get their stories going.

2. 911 Writers Block is an online website that helps students who are struggling with character details, opening lines, verbs, settings and dialogue.  It helps students add depth and detail to their stories.

Blogging is a great way to get students comfortable with writing. You can set a variety of writing tasks for them to complete. In the past I have set journal topics for them to write about, photo essays where they have to use images to tell a story and then embed in their blog and creative writing challenges.  If you have a class blog you can get students to collaborate and comment on each others work.

Virtual Cork boards - There are a few ways you can use virtual cork boards when teaching creative writing.   One great way to use this tool is to get students to come up with story ideas and share them.. To further extend it, once each students has posted a story idea you can then ask the class to pick one (not their own) and write a story.  If you have reluctant writers, why not create a cork board with images and clips to help students come up with their ideas.  What's great about this is that if you set a creative writing assignment students could refer to the cork board if they are stuck for ideas.  Some virtual corkkboards that I recommend are: Wallwishers or Spaaze

Digital Storytelling involves creating stories using technology whether its podcasts, video or creating ebooks. One great tool is StorybirdThis site is great for students  who aren't confident writers because Storybird reverses the process of visual storytelling by starting with the images and allowing students to ‘unlock’ the story inside.  Their motto is pretty simple “choose an artist or a theme, get inspired, and start writing.”   

For more digital story telling resources please read this blog post by Richard Bryne 11 Good Digital Story Telling Resources.

This is a site just for teachers if you are new to teaching creative writing: 10 Great Tips for Writing Short Stories

Do you have any resources to share? Post below!

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