"But Miss Parrish, I can't think of anything to write!"
Haven't we all heard similar lines in our classrooms? We see hesitant writers sit with a pencil in their hand and a paper on their desk, almost as if they have been handicapped by the task they have been asked to do?
How is it that some students have so much to say when talking out loud, but when a pencil is put into their hand they suddenly hesitate, struggle and have nothing to say? How can you help those hesitant writers eliminate the "handicap" or barrier that suddenly appears when asked to write?
The answer is to simply have them produce "writing" without technically "writing" at all. That's right, the way to get hesitant writers to produce as much "writing" as they do "talking" is to have them do exactly that - talk.
- Student Talks, Teacher Writes
- Have your student stand up and you sit in their seat.
- Pick up their pencil and simply state, "You talk, I'll write."
- This usually catches students off guard and takes them a minute to realize that this is a real option for them.
- Identify a way that your students can audio record themselves "speaking" their essay rather than "writing" it. This could be a tape recorder, digital audio recorder, student computer with a microphone or even an audio recording feature on your phone.
- Hand that audio recording device to your student and say, "Step out in the hall and 'write' your essay using this."
- See confusion, sheer awe, and then signs of relief come over the face of your student.
- Identify an app or tool that will transcribe speaking into text. Some options for this are an iPhone 4s, PaperPort Notes (for iPad), Dragon Naturally Speaking, Dictation Pro and Voice Translator. Add one of these to your iPad, tablet or computer.
|Photo Credit: http://softadvice.informer.com/Audio_To_Text_Converter.html|
- I usually opened a blank email on my iPhone 4s, touched the audio transcription button, handed my phone to my student and said, "Go ahead 'speak' your paper."
- Next, see confusion, sheer awe and then signs of complete relief come over your student's face.
- After speaking/typing it, the student can simply email the text to themselves and work on their draft from there.
The sooner students (and teachers) can see that writing has nothing to do with a pencil, a piece of paper or keyboard, and the sooner students see that writing is simply communicating, the sooner they will start making incredible progress. Barriers will come down. The handicapping hesitation of putting the pencil on the paper to "write" will go away. Then students will feel freed up to "say it as it is" in their writing. After all, writing is simply communicating, just through the pencil's "lead" rather than through a person's "lips."
Our concern is not whether a student communicates something through a pencil, pen, keyboard, chalkboard, papyrus, stylus, audio transcription device or otherwise. Our real hope and goal is for an individual to capture their high-quality thoughts and then to convey them effectively to others. These strategies break down the barriers between a student's mind and their audience. These strategies free up