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Support and challenge through talk

The problem being addressed in this technique

Many students do not like writing tasks and are reluctant to do more than a sentence or two in extended writing. Some have a limited vocabulary range and use simple and common words. This technique seeks to motivate them to write at length and use interesting nouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs and connectives. If you amend the words in the boxes e.g science terms, you can use the technique for any age or in any subject including foreign languages.

Principle 4

Learning tasks should build upon prior learning, make connections, and have clearly defined progression routes that meet the needs of individuals, including support and challenge. Teachers should have high expectations for all learners.

The technique (one of 33 in the chapter)

In my training work with schools and colleges, I often show how students can sometimes respond with enthusiasm to a visual and auditory stimulus before having to show skill or understanding in some form such as writing. The example below of haunted house images is particularly popular because the theme of a haunted house appeals to teenagers and when I show the images in PowerPoint, they are accompanied by eerie sound effects downloaded from a free sound effects site on the internet (e.g The haunted house images and sounds can be used to introduce a creative writing project. For example, each student or pair of students is allocated one image from the PowerPoint.

The PowerPoint can have numerous images, allowing the teacher to allocate one per pair in the class. If a group story is to emerge, students can choose the order of the slides. The same idea can be adapted, e.g. a commentary on a volcanic eruption and its aftermath.

Students can then move the image up or across the page to create space for a text box at the bottom or at the side. They are then asked individually or in pairs to write a commentary for their image using words from the nouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, and connectives word boxes displayed in the classroom. (Adjectives box below).

This word box has scores attached to each word, encouraging students to choose interesting words for their writing. Scores will also be included for the other word boxes (nouns etc.). This idea came originally from Cutting Edge Publications in Cornwall, UK, a publisher of fabulous resources for special needs. Students love getting high scores!

However, writing is not the only option. Support or challenge through product allows teachers to be more flexible. Some students may possess little English, perhaps because they have special educational needs or perhaps because English is not their first language and they are just learning. I believe that such students may learn to speak the language before they learn to write and if the teacher or TA has recording facilities, another option is to plan and record a spoken commentary. Indeed, small groups could collaborate and produce their own spoken story with the Haunted House PowerPoint being played on completion with the voices of the students, their own audiobook. Any sequence of images with commentary can be used in this way. For example, this would work well in arts, science or vocational colleges with construction, hairdressing/beauty, theatre studies, catering and any course where the steps to the final product can be captured with images and a commentary, spoken or written.

To get all the 33 techniques in Chapter 4, Principle 4 go here

To get all 157 techniques for all 7 principles go here

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