Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Inspiring students' writing

Weak student performance in writing is a general trend in bilingual programs of all languages. And the same proves to be true when students take external exams such as the DELE (Diploma de Español como Lengua Extranjera). There is little doubt that student writing may have bee negatively affected by our increase in orientation towards becoming a more audiovisual, web 2.0 oriented society.

Is there anything we can do to change this pattern? I'd like to introduce a very inspiring teacher working in Spain, Elvira Laruelo, even though she doesn't work directly in a bilingual program. She is enthusiastic about reading and writing and she knows how to transmit this enthusiasm to teenagers who, of course, don't have any interest whatsoever for both activities (or so many may think). Her working blog is:

Elvira is an expert in children's and young adult's literature. She is a devoted reader and she is always on the look out for good stories to share with her students. She has also published short stories and poems, some of which have been turned into songs by local artists in her province. Students get engaged with the positive energy she transmits towards reading and writing.
In her blog there are sections to give students information about their syllabus, cartoons and short texts about "the value of education", "freedom" or "solidarity.  All of them very interesting  but I would like to bring your attention to two other sections related to today's topic:
  • Actividades de lectura y escritura: These are the activities she has designed to increase students' love of reading. Every school year, Elvira recommends the reading of different novels to her students. These stories can be read every month as a way to obtain bonus marks. I can tell that every month most of the students in her school take the challenge and read at least an extra book. Good readers make good writers. To improve students' writing skills she also organizes different writing projects that target different interests. Short stories, photos, and personal experiences are used to inspire good quality writing. Students are motivated to keep on improving their writing skills and build their love of writing by entering writing competitions that are held three times a year. 
Using picture prompts or a short film to inspire student writing is certainly not a novel idea; however, with   easy access to the Internet, teachers can find thought-provoking resources that will inspire students' imagination.
  • Click on the picture to visit this section with all the details.

  • The second section I would like to point out is, naturally, the students works, Textos de Alumnas-os. In this section we can read some of the texts that the students wrote. There are  poems inspired by the heart shaped potato, poems or short texts on friendship and love. I particularly enjoyed reading the work of the first competition's winner, a text that mixes reality and dream to create a thrilling story. Surprisingly, all the students are from grade 8 to grade 10. Spend some time reading the texts because they are beautiful pieces of writing.
Is it possible to encourage our students to read and enjoy it, and consequently to produce better  writing? I am positive about it! We not only need to be consistent and persistent and providing good writing instruction but also model a passion for love of literature ourselves. We also need to remember that enhancing students' imagination and the production of quality writing go hand in hand in a bilingual program. This blog is a clear example that this can be achieved.