In order to meet the needs of able writers a range of organisational responses can be applied. In this essay 'in - class' approaches will be discussed. We will not be considering approaches such as acceleration and the provision of out - of - school activities (both of which can be valid in terms of assisting able writers) but rather will focus on everyday provision in the typically diverse Primary classroom.
The two keys to effective provision for able writers are,
In this article enhancement strategies will be considered.
1) General Enhancement Strategies
If able pupils are to realise their potential as writers they need to be motivated. To a large degree the appropriateness of the task is a prime factor in determining their levels of motivation. Other methods of 'raising the challenge' can be used by the busy classroom teacher -
2) An enhancement strategy for 'quick finishers'
Many able pupils complete writing activities far quicker than other children. One way of ensuring that 'filler activities' are avoided when this situation occurs is the application of the 'Lipogram challenge'.
A lipogram is a piece of writing that omits a specific letter of the alphabet. If an able pupil finishes quickly they can be asked to rewrite the last ten lines / last paragraph (etc) as a lipogram. Rewriting without a particular vowel proves the most successful although the teacher should be aware, that if the letter 'e' is banned, the rewrite will be particularly difficult.
This activity helps to widen the pupil's vocabulary and gives a real reason for using both a Dictionary and Thesaurus.
3) Enhancement strategies and poetry writing
A simple method of increasing the challenge, when writing poetry with pupils, is to adapt the form. Although this does not necessarily result in a 'better' poem it certainly heightens the complexity.
a) Rhyming Poetry
When rhyming poetry is being developed a more able pupil could focus on 'Start - of - line' rhyme, as opposed to the typical 'End - of - line' rhyme. In 'Start - of - line' rhyme the rhyming words open (rather than close) each line -
|End - of - line rhyme||Start of - line rhyme|
|I was walking down the street one day||Day after day I watch the sea|
|I'd just collected my weekly pay||Pay me for my time|
|I did not know what I would do||Do you know what I am ?|
|Don't laugh mister, neither would you||You might have guessed - I'm a coastguard !|
b) Syllabic poetry
Syllabic forms can also be made more challenging. When some pupils are writing Haiku (3 line poetry form) : 1st line - 5 syllables / 2nd line - 7 syllables / 3rd line - 5 syllables) a more able pupil could work on …
4) Enhancement strategies and Narrative writing
A useful approach to increasing the level of difficulty of story writing is through application of the 'Rashomon Effect' i.e. a story written from multiple viewpoints. As an effective story writer is able to assume alternate frames of reference, the activity is particularly useful in developing story writing ability.
If pupils were writing a story entitled 'The Train Crash' a 'Rashomon Effect' approach could result in a story with the following structure.
Chapter 1 : The Driver's Story
Chapter 2 : The Passenger's Story
Chapter 3 : The Crash Investigator's Story
Chapter 4 : The Relative's Story
Starts and endings of stories also need attention. (See Oct / Nov 1999 issue and Jan / Feb 2000 issues of this magazine for articles dealing with how to start and end stories) A challenging method of opening a story is the '3 question start'. Three possibilities are set up. These are then negated in a fourth sentence that opens the story. The form is best illustrated by example.
If 'endings' are being taught, cliché can be avoided through direct teaching of more complex conclusions such as 'End with a question'. This leaves the story open for a sequel.
5) Enhancement Strategies and non - fiction
As text organisation remains (more or less) consistent in non - fiction text forms (regardless of the complexity) the teacher can easily make 'writing frame' approaches more appropriate for able pupils by increasing the complexity of the sentence starters used -
|Persuasive writing (less able)||Persuasive writing (more able)|
|I think...||Although some people disagree I wish to argue that...|
|I think this because...||My position remains unchanged because...|
|I also think this because ...||A further supporting argument is...|
|Another reason I think this ...||Moreover...|
|Other people think...||Therefore, although some people suggest that...|
|I still think...||There are several arguments to support this viewpoint, the most important of which is...|
Maintaining motivation and maximising challenge is an everyday aspect of a teacher's job. The practical suggestions made in this article should assist teachers in addressing the issue of how they might make appropriate provision for able writers at Key Stage 2.