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Inspiring Student Writing
Submitted by Tam Neville (profile)

Strategy: Using a passage from a text to inspire students' own writing.

I have one or two students read an especially good passage aloud from the text that we are reading. We discuss it briefly; then, I ask the students to do their own free write, using the style or the subject of the passage as inspiration. The students can also write in imitation of the passage.

Purpose: Good writing is infectious - it moves students to write and it also gives them a kind of poise that enables them to stretch beyond their usual boundaries (of personality, language, style, rhythm, etc.).

Setting: The technique can be used with almost any form of literature: fiction, poetry, or memoir. The passage used should be one the facilitator enjoys so that she or he can communicate enthusiasm to the class.

Suggested prompts (women's program): To inspire students to write, I have used the following passage:

"Where I grew up - and probably elsewhere - you were a slut or a tight bitch, one or the other, if you were a girl, and usually before you were thirteen. You didn't have to do anything to be a slut. If you were good-looking; if you grew up fast. If you had a sexy walk; if you had clean hair, if you had dirty hair. If you wore platform shoes, and if you didn't. Anything could get you called a 'slut.'" (from Ask me, Ask me, Ask me by Roddy Doyle.)

I chose the above passage because it has such a strong and direct spoken voice behind it.

Link: See The Use of Writing in the Changing Lives Classroom.

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