I am a pre GED/GED teacher looking for new, imaginative ways to get my students to feel more confident as writers. We work individually and in small groups within the classroom, and there are homework assignments as well. Quite frankly, it is really difficult to get people to complete these assignments; they feel intimidated. Can you make some suggestions that might give these students more incentives to make greater efforts at putting thoughts to paper?
One very successful writing initiative for students in New York City is Selected Shorts: All Write, sponsored by Symphony Space. Students and their teachers attend a program of short story readings read by prominent actors. Then, using the material that has been read and other works, mainly fiction and poetry, the students write stories and poems of their own.
Their submissions can be individual or written by an entire class. (This includes ESL, pre GED and GED students.) At the second gathering, the same actors read works chosen from literacy classes all around the city.
It is quite thrilling to attend one of these events. The honorees get to hear their work read, and their classmates get to cheer them on. Symphony Space publishes a program which includes all of the stories and poems that have been presented. The event is a real confidence-builder for beginning writers.
One of my distance students was selected to have her poem read on May 6, 2008 - which made both of us very proud.
By Ana Medeiros
Ah, platitude of words without meaning
Where the command of words
Die hard on the machine
Began the journey with three pieces of luggage
And a dream
Across an ocean, alone for the first time
Winter snow fell that night
Sixteen years have passed
I'm still here, trying to cross oceans of meaning
For days one by
It's always painful to realize
The people I left behind
Still crying in my mind
Sometimes, I imagine having miles of arms
So I can touch my mother
And sleep again
Another arm to hold my sister and giant hands
To touch my country
Now, with dreams gone nowhere
Reality is my emptiness
Sorting books of legends and names
Words crowd my eyes
Nothing stays for long
Only the dust between my fingers
Behind a door, the shadow of tragedies
Conspire to undo the moment just past
And I wish to dies without being born
Save the day one more time
With no goodbye
Postscript: I asked Ana to share her feelings about the writing experience at Symphony Space. Her response follows:
"I have been writing all my life but keeping my writing life inside the drawer. Having someone to discuss even my small ideas that came into being made me believe that I could complete a sentence, a poem, or perhaps one day a book."
For more information about the Symphony Space: All Write program, please visit http://www.symphonyspace.org/education/all_write
"I failed the essay portion of my GED test. Organizing my thoughts has always been really hard for me. I don't have trouble thinking up ideas for the essay but I can't seem to put them in good order. Can you give me some pointers?"
First, everything is difficult until it becomes easy! You need to write every day. With that in mind, I am going to give you a "how to" to use as an outline when you work on your GED essays.
1st Paragraph: Introduction
Introduce the topic to the reader
Thesis Sentence: main idea of the essay
Restate the question or topic, and tell the reader what the essay will contain.
2nd and 3rd paragraphs: Body
The body contains facts, examples, quotations, anecdotes (short descriptions of events that illustrate your point), and other details to fully explain the topic.
The body should contain at least two paragraphs. Each paragraph should explain a separate reason or example.
Transitional Phrases - allow you to change paragraphs smoothly.
I think that ______________ because...
One example of ______________ is...
My first reason is...
First of all...
I also think that...
In the same way...
My second reason is...
At the same time...
Second of all...
4th paragraph: Conclusion
The conclusion is a summary of the entire essay. When writing the conclusion, combine your thesis sentence with each of your reasons or examples.
To be sure,
For these reasons,
All in all,
When all sides are considered,
As I have discussed,
In any case,
As you can see,
TIPS - Educators
Educators devote a great deal of time trying to increase class retention. In free programs like ours, which depend on high enrollment for funding, this is a huge challenge.
It is important to acknowledge that outside factors - family problems, illness, job schedules, no babysitter - are not always the causes of high attrition.
Althea N. Davidson, a Skills Instructor at CUNY Queens College wrote about this problem and some solutions in the January 8 Literacy Update. (LAC)
She gave the students index cards in the first class. She asked them to list anything they thought that would help their learning on one side of the card. On the other side, she asked them to write down anything they felt would detract from their learning. She repeated the exercise after exams and upon completion of study units. The students had a positive response to these surveys. They felt she was including them in the learning process. She also gave out her number so students could call her for homework if they missed a class. She worked with students on a one-to-one basis if they needed help.
TIPS - Students
Can you help me to find a way to feel less terrified when I have to write to my child's teachers or in my daily activities?
A wonderful way to help you become more comfortable with the writing process is to become familiar with the "graphic novel". This literary form tells a story with visuals only or uses a comic book format. You can read it through the pictures and then write about it. It can be less intimidating than a written novel and can get you going with your writing.
One such book is The Arrival by Shaun Tan published by Arthur A. Levine Books, an imprint of Scholastic, Inc. The book tells the story of a man leaving his family and homeland to arrive in a new place. We have used it in many of our adult education classes to help students write their own stories. The book is available at the library.