Creative writing is a classic school assignment. But getting students to write without understanding how actual authors do the job is only scratching the surface. Here, students from Exshaw School in southern Alberta are apprenticed into the world of being a writer, editor and publisher. They end up engaged in the process and excited for the outcome.
We’ll outline the details, but you can also check out the full video below.
Students watched the beginning of an animated short and were asked what could happen next – how does the story end? In this task, they were challenged to think and behave like real authors. Rubrics, detailed conversations and other assessment tools were used to apprentice students into brainstorming, writing, editing and presenting the rest of the story. This task illustrates how assessment that mirrors work in the discipline can be meaningfully woven into task design.
The Teacher’s Objective:
“(Going into the task) I wanted to build on a lot of the work that we had done previously, which was to dissect stories, and to look at all the parts of a story so that when they go to write, they know that they’re capturing all those pieces that a real author would put in their book.”
- After the animated short was paused right before the climax, the class was abuzz with what was going to happen. Students immediately started to problem solve and make predictions. They brainstormed in pairs.
According to the teacher, this was important to further develop comprehension, oral language and communication skills: “Talking through the story is very valuable, even before you put pen to paper.”
- Working in groups, students identified story components and made storyboards to visually map out the climax, the attempts to solve the problem presented in the story, and what the resolution would be.
“They got to feel like they were writers,” said the teacher “but they were not alone in that process.”
- Using their completed storyboards, students continued to work in their group to prepare an initial draft. The process was ongoing, with feedback from other groups and from the teacher, who used small-group conferencing strategies:
“Conferencing for me, was like immediate feedback,” the teacher said.
“We could talk about where they’re at and what they’re writing. And ask them questions to probe their processing. There was opportunity for me to do some assessment for learning in that moment so that they can continue to work on their piece.”
- There were more edits and drafts. As they fine-tuned their story, students used a rubric they helped develop. This determined next steps, whether their work was ‘on track’ and whether it was up to the standards of a professional author, editor and publisher.
“We talked about what would we be looking for and we tried to use real, professional writer terminologies,” said the teacher.
“So we talked about when you’re a writer, you have to bring your work to an editor who’s going to look at it and make sure that all these important things are included in your writing: The story has to make sense, it has to be exciting and interesting and of course, it has so be done correctly in terms of grammar, sentence structure, things like that.”
As they finished their stories, students were still curious to find how the animated short ended. Seeing how someone else concluded the story helped the kids realize they’re authors too.
“Writing isn’t just what happens on the paper,” said the teacher.
“It’s a creative process where the conversation and the ideas and dialogue between partners when writing the piece is just as important. So the student who maybe isn’t as strong in actually recording, they were very much involved with myself, and their partner and/or another adult in the room, to contribute to the story….the kids were all involved in that process of being an author, creating the story, and including all those elements.”