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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Video Writing Prompts

Tis the season to be practicing writing, if the number of emails I've received recently is any indication.

I have to admit I've moved from the relatively generic, random prompts to those more directly related to my instructional content. Over at Teach with Picture Books I described a persuasive essay prompt (about midway down that post) which creates a real moral dilemma for students; these are the types of starters that usually get great results.

Just today in class I presented my students with "Should sixth graders read books about the Holocaust?" following our unit on The Devil's Arithmetic. Prior to writing time, students were asked to argue for and against that position, and we heard lots of compelling ideas. Some students, in fact, who felt strongly one way before the discussion chose to write from the opposing viewpoint once we began our drafts.

Unfortunately, reality and history tell us that the writing assessments demanded of our students each spring are rarely connected to the themes and topic they've studied throughout the year. That's why it's important to have students practice with truly "random" prompts.

One great source I've discovered is TeachHub's Video Writing Prompts. These prompts incorporate one thing students love (video) with fairly open-ended prompts (written for four grade levels: K-2, 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12). Even if you're not crazy about the writing task provided, the videos themselves offer great raw inspiration for a number of response options.

One of my favorites is the Softball Player Carried Around Bases by Opponents (I think my first writing task would be for students to give it a better title!).

Even here, however, a teacher might choose to use an alternative version of the same event (this time, a news feature) for a different writing purpose.

Now, I have to admit, I'm a real softie, and even watching that for the fourth time, I still get teary-eyed. But why? What was added to the storytelling that increased the emotional impact of the second video? (And by the way, I would cut out the buzz kill commentator at the end. Seriously. Stop the video before that guy ruins it for your students).

If you can't access YouTube in your school, you might be interested to know that the free and easy web site Zamzar allows you to download videos from online and save them to a number of formats including wmv, which can be played by Windows Movie Viewer, available on most computers. (I'm not a lawyer so I can't attest to the legality of downloading every video in this way. I'm just saying I know that it's possible).


Annie from said...

Thanks for sharing the video writing prompts with your readers! We appreciate the shout out and the suggestions :)

Keith said...

My pleasure! My students love going there to write from the prompts!

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