Saturday, March 12, 2011

Writing because they want to

Every year, I do a writing project where the students take a movie clip of their choice and then novelize it. For example, I took a 4 minute clip from the movie Sahara and novelized it. Below is the clip and my novelization of the scene.


I use this project to show kids that writing can be a lot of fun, and I use it to teach the kids how to improve their writing skills. I find this works well because the kids actually want to know how to write dialogue with quotation marks and proper punctuation because they actually want to make their stories fun and cool to read. Because they see this project as an authentic use of their time and effort, I don't need to convince them to improve their writing, they tend to want to.

Most kids like to split their screen in half - on one half they have their movie, and on the other half they have Microsoft Word. This way, they can press play and pause quickly while writing their first draft based on what they see and hear from their movie clip.

A measure of success and engagement came when the recess bell rang, and one of my students asked "Can I stay in for recess and continue this?" I turned and said, "that's up to you." In the end, 13 out of my 20 students chose to stay in for recess, while the others went out for a break.

The transition was seamless. Those who wanted to go outside simply stowed their laptops and went on their way, while others kept hacking away at their stories. The room was eerily quiet with the exception of the clickity clack rising from a dozen keyboards.

I never made a big deal of it. I didn't praise anyone for staying nor did I comment on those who left. I didn't want to manipulate or place any pressure or guilt on anyone for their decision to stay or go.

It just was.

But deep down, I was pleased with it all. Those who went for recess had every right to go for a break - and the students who chose to stay provided me feedback with their actions louder than words could ever portray. They were willing to spend their own free will on continuing a writing project.

What more could I ask for?


  1. This is a great activity Joe. I also like the PDF reader.

  2. Great inspiration again, Joe! Thank you!


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