In the past Dear Gaila columns you offered great suggestions for encouraging writing in English at home (see part I and part II). I would like to hear suggestions for a classroom. I have a challenging group with very weak writing skills. How can I strengthen their writing abilities?
English Teacher in Israel
I like to encourage writing by asking my students to write book reports. This way they also read (which in itself promotes better writing abilities) and write. Book reports don't have to be the standard boring summary we usually expect.
At the first level they can simply draw a picture of their favourite part of the book with a one sentence explanation of what it is, and/or why they like it. As they progress they can be asked to write more of an explanation for the picture.
The next level is what is often referred to a book task rather than book reports. One can ask the children for a list of words which are then used in sentences. These words can be adjectives, verbs, or parts of sentences. Or they can be a shopping list that a character would need the next time he goes shopping for food or clothes. They could be words connected to a scene in the book.
Another fun activity is for your students to write a rebus books. These give a summary of the book but use a lot of pictures instead of words . The pictures can be photocopied ahead of time, small and plentiful, so that they can use the picture of a tree instead of the word whenever needed to talk about (such as in the Giving Tree). This reduces the stress a child feels about producing a long report with lots of words that he feels incapable of remembering how to write.
There are truly unlimited ways you can get your students writing "book reports". Just be creative and your students will learn that writing can be fun!