Writing Prompts--Thank you Alexandra Berube for this excellent guest post! Boston Tutoring is a valuable resource for parents and teachers.
Alexandra Berube, Managing DirectorWhen tutoring a student week after week to improve writing skills, it can be challenging to come up with ways to make the content engaging. With a third grade student I've been working with for years, some of our current goals are to encourage fluency, vocabulary use, story development, and structure. These are all large-reaching concepts that can be approached in a number of ways.In order to start us off, I went on Google images and printed out an illustration of a giant crab attacking a city. It's not violent, but it is a very visually stimulating, and for a male student, he needs action in his writing or he's not going to stay interested.I told him our story was going to have a beginning, middle, and end. Three paragraphs. The first would be about how the crab got to be so giant. The second would be, what was it doing in this city and how did it get there. And the third would be about how the story would end: what would become of the crab, and the city underneath it?The student got to generate an idea for the genesis of this giant crab, and came up with a story about how it broke into a supermarket and climbed into some magic tomato sauce, which made him giant. When working with students, I always promote as much creativity as possible, and ask lots of questions along the way, such as, "What happened to the jar once the crab got giant? Did it break?" Logic within a fantasy world is still important for writers to consider, even if the logic only makes sense in that one world.As we wrote each paragraph, I focused on using dynamic verbs and sensory adjectives, asking him how he thought things looked, smelled, felt, etc. I asked him question after question to promote development of ideas and logical sequencing, because what's next? And why did that happen after the previous event? are necessary inquiries not just for writing development but for reading comprehension as well. The two skills go hand in hand, and by actively discussing sequencing while writing we can promote comprehension as well.Another day, I chose three images and asked the student to put them in order. A picture of a boy looking into the woods, a picture of a bear, and a picture of a gingerbread house. I imagined that he would start with the boy, looking at the house, and then encountering a bear. Instead the bear ate the house while the boy watched. Of course, I was happy with any outcome, and each step of the way we discussed logical sequencing in order to develop our story. I believe that images stimulate our senses and our imagination in a way that questions like ‘What would you do if...’ are not able to. And then you just have to see where it takes you.--
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