This is part two in a series of ideas intended to nurture critical, creative, and curious thinking while also supporting composition development. With these ideas, writers of all ages can develop understandings about texts and their characteristics, the writing process, and what it means to be a writer.
Begin by asking:
- What makes you curious?
- What topics interest you the most?
- What do you wish to know more about?
When students have listed some responses, invite them to choose one of their curiosities, interests, or wishes and to ask a question about it, a question that they can explore and discover answers. This will be their guiding question, the question that will guide their learning and eventually their writing.
According to Jim Burke—teacher, writer, and speaker—when students ask the questions and then seek out the answers, their learning is meaningful. They understand better, remember longer, and engage much more deeply and for greater periods of time because personal interest and curiosity drive them. Essentially, a guiding question—rooted in the student’s own curiosity and desire to know—motivates learning.
During the discovery/research phase, have students keep notes of interesting facts, maybe even sketching their thinking; this is like a prewrite for the book. They will be able to select from these to complete their book. Once the students have discovered the answer to their question (or the completion deadline is approaching), have them design and write a book that shares their learning.
This designing and writing might begin with drawing. Instruct students to think about all of the notes they have collected and to start drawing what they’ve learned. The act of drawing, like the act of writing text, can be satisfying and informative. Using a storyboard during the planning phase will not only help students organize and focus their books but give them a clear path to text. The storyboard, a graphic organizer in the form of illustrations or images displayed in sequence, allows a writer to pre-visualize content. I have discovered that modifying the storyboard by using 3” x 3” Post-it style notes facilitates drafting and idea revision because the frames are moveable. The logical sequencing power of storyboards, combined with the hands-on engagement of drawing, makes these tools work for learners. Once they’ve made the information visible and clear, invite students to explain their pictures; ask if they have any notes that match these illustrations; those explanations and notes will become the text. A title might be Everything I Learned About ___, filling in the blank with their chosen topic. They will need to decide who their audience will be—younger readers or readers their own age—and what the purpose of the book will be, whether to explain, to give information, to describe, to tell a story, or to persuade. Knowing the audience and their purpose will help to guide their writing.
For additional information about how to use storyboards in the classroom or how to use digital storytelling to reinforce comprehension, check out http://www.storyboardthat.com/