To foster deep learning and efficient teaching, all the writing students do in a class should be on topics that are authentic to the course. Just as students must to write about biology in papers for biology class, in English they should write about English topics. Far from being limiting, that requirement yields hundreds of topics that are timely, immediately relevant to students and often fun besides.
The book also ends abruptly, has several minor errors–such as omitting the word “to” in several locations–that suggest the book is still in unfinished format. Suggestions for improvement include re-editing the text, and crafting a narrative up front–an engaging story–of how to best approach informal writing prompt development in the classroom. I found myself hungry for more “story,” or insights into how students were experiencing the use of informal writing prompts. Those may appear in a second edition after teachers have had a chance to use it in the field.
- …rather than give a list of informal writing prompts teachers could copy and paste into their lesson plans, I’ve tried [to] show teachers how [to] develop informal writing prompts to shape student learning and reshape their own teaching.
- Informal writing is a learning strategy, not a writing strategy.
- Write to learn prompts are specific subset of informal writing prompts whose primary use is to help students master some important and difficult topic.
- [The author defines the vocabulary she’s going to use through the book…I’m not sure if other words could be used to describe the concepts she’s introducing.]
- I have reservations about having students use cell phone text messages for informal writing. ALthough many informal responses will be short enough for a text message,texting doesn’t lend itself to skills writing teachers should encourage, such as writing in complete sentences, avoiding texting shorthand, and proofreading work. I personally feel it is a poor use of time to require students to write without insisting on a basic level of writing performance; others may have a different perspective.
- [Write to learn acitivities focused on grammar…ugh. I’m starting to have flashbacks to old style textbooks where the focus was learning grammar, then matching writing to the grammar lesson…for example, today we learned about adjectives; now, write a sentence with adjectives].
- Procedure for developing informal writing:
- Determine appropriate topics
- Consider response technologies
- Set participation standards
- Establish a tracking mechanism
- Make prompt retrievable
- Test prompts by writing responses
- Prepare students to participate
- Use the prompts
- Give feedback to students
- Evaluate the prompts
- [no conclusion or ending chapter]
Obviously, there’s a lot more to the book that’s not included in my notes. You can order the book online and find out what’s missing from my review!
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