More Teaching Tasks

    Barry Lane’s But How Do You Teach Writing?(2008) is another work which in part focuses on writing tasks teachers can use to inspire, engage, and motivate students to write.  Lane’s objective is “to inspire as much as to teach, to encourage as much as to show how.  This book will show you why we teach writing as well as how to teach writing” (Lane 7).  He includes exercises that engage and motivate students and also teach basic grammar skills.  He laces his work with what he calls “Lane’s Laws”.

    Lane’s first Laws states:  “No writing program can replace a teacher who creatively adapts to the needs of his or her students.  Not now.  Not ever” (Lane 19).  One exercise he offers to engage students also creatively helps students understand first and third person.  Using a photograph of a person, perhaps an ancestor, he suggests having students describe the photograph in the third person.  After reading over the descriptions have them “pretend to climb inside that person’s mind and write a monologue in the first person about what the person is thinking” (Lane 74).  Next have students write in their own voice a reflection on the monologue and the third person description.  He then poses several questions to ask students:  “What did it feel like to shift your point of view as a writer?  From what point of view were you most comfortable writing?” (Lane 74).  This exercise divided into three sections will engage students, especially if they use a picture of a much older relative.  Writing a monologue about what the person is thinking is an inspiring and engaging task.  Concluding the exercise with having students reflect on the exercise in their own voice motivates students. Teaching students to understand point of view is a thoughtful exercise.

    Another example helps students understand modes of writing and verb tense.  Lane explains that there are two choices when you write anything:  “You can swim in the sea of life, writing with rich physical detail to draw the reader into on experience, or you climb the mountain of abstraction and gaze down at the patterns of the waves making sense of it all” (Lane 72).  In other words, there are two basic modes of writing:  “One you write about the experience directly and in the other, you stand back from yourself and make sense of it all” (Lane 72).  Lane points out  that both types of writing help the writer “connect with the reader:  the first mode focuses on the reader’s senses and the second on the reader’s reason” (Lane 73).  After offering an example of a vivid experience in both modes have students think of vivid experiences in a brainstorming exercise.  “Next ask them to write about one of the experiences in first person, present tense.  Then ask the students to write about the same event in past tense” (Lane 73).  Again he poses several questions to ask students about the exercise:  “What is the difference between the two examples?  Which mode do you feel most comfortable with?  How can stepping back help improve your writing?  How can stepping back weaken a piece of writing” (Lane 73).  This exercise helps students understand modes of writing and engages students in the writing process. Thinking of a vivid experience should inspire students to write.

    Lane offers other writing tasks to motivate student writing like “The Lullaby Weave”.  He suggests ways to use journals and how to organize writing workshops. He also focuses on how to help students ask questions rather than focus on answers.  He offers lessons on how to use information and facts in lessons like “Start with a Spark”.  Lane’s work is informative and easy to use.  I think his tasks offer valuable lessons to inspire, engage, and motivate students.



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