Monday, October 14, 2013

Power Writing

Last year, one of my curriculum instruction specialists included a writing activity called Power Rounds from Jeff Anderson's 10 Things Every Writer Needs to Know in a professional development session. I was hooked from the first second, even though I was unsure how my students would react to the lesson. 

Here is the gist:


  • Students are shown two words. 
  • From the two words, each student chooses one. 
  • Students write for one minute about the word without stopping. 
  • Once the round is completed, students count how many words they have written.
  • Two more rounds are completed. 
I love this activity because it can be used in so many ways - an introduction, a review, a brainstorm, a time-filler. 

After learning about this strategy, I invited my curriculum instruction specialist to campus to see the lesson in action. I used it as an introduction to The Hobbit with my Pre-AP students. I made it like a boxing match, with matches and rounds and using a boxing bell for my timer, and not only did my students love it, I received positive reviews from my curriculum instructional specialist. 

Knowing how well this strategy worked last year, I have been anxious to try it again this year. My students are starting a personal narrative, and I managed to work Power Writing into the lesson as a brainstorming piece. Last Friday, my Pre-AP class completed their Power Writing. I am by no means modest about my prowess as a teacher, but I have to admit that I was blown away but how much this class loved the assignment. 

After the first round, we did a tally on how many words each student had written. The range was from zero to 28. Once that tally was complete, something happened in their crazy little minds. This extreme competitiveness came out of I-don't-know-where, and it was GAME ON for round two. They were actually trying to steal one another's papers in order to get more words written. When the timer beeped after sixty seconds, I was having to yell for them to stop writing because they wanted to continue. Most importantly, for me at least, they all wrote considerably more the second time than they had the first. 

By the third round, students were running around the room trying to hide from one another in order to protect their work. Each was determined to write more than anyone else. Again, I was begging them to stop writing, and they were begging to continue - so much so that they asked me for a bonus round. Is this really happening? I kept thinking. They want to write more? Getting students to write is usually like pulling teeth. 

I know to many of you that this may seem like pure chaos, and more often that not, my classroom looks like a disaster to the outsider. But I teach in a world where edu-tainment is a real term, and if the students are not entertained, we are very likely to lose them. I am far from an old-school teacher. The full engagement of 29 students is a dream come true. I am excited to complete this lesson with my academic classes in the next few days, and with this much success, this strategy will play a role in my classroom for years to come. 

8 comments:

  1. Love this idea! Totally stealing for my middle schoolers- Thanks!

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  2. I have always been told that stealing is allowed in teaching. I just used the idea from a book. I think it is important to share successes. I would love to hear how this works for your kids.

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  3. I just found your blog through Edmodo and a) you are awesome and adorable, and b) I am stealing this idea.

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  4. haha... I didn't know I could be adorable at 40, but I'll take it.

    steal away. I am here to share. .

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  5. I am doing this tomorrow to get my students ready for NaNoWriMo writing. So glad I found your blog - great stuff!!!

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  6. Thank you thank you! I would love to hear how it goes. I suppose we should all be be thanking @writeguyjeff.

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  8. Words cannot express how much I appreciate your blog. Thank you for your help as I reteach myself how to teach middle school ELA (7th) after 10 years of teaching middle school drama. (I saw my typo in my previous comment, but I don't know how to edit a post on this site so I deleted it.)

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