The Inspiration Lab
As our first hybrid-learning project, students explored sources of inspiration for creative writing both as a class and independently. They wrote many stories over the course of the six weeks, pulling from their personal lives, other people's stories, artwork, and their own characters. Writing prompts were often interactive and hands-on, and left room for students to write for escapism or intentional reflection.
During this project, students learned to write realistic dialogue conveying emotion and revealing information; to write descriptively using sensory detail and literary devices; to plot a story on a plot diagram; and to write characters who develop.
After six weeks of short writing prompts, students were able to identify what helps them overcome the infamous "Writer's Block."
Physical Writing Journals
To close out a long year of virtual learning, I opted to ground students in the physical pen-to-paper writing experience. This decision was partially rooted in my own experiences with writing on paper versus on a screen, as well as in research about the ways writing on paper develops the brain, limits distractions, can spark creativity, and supports a variety of learners.
Each student received a composition notebook in which they would write their stories. Students uploaded pictures of their writing throughout the project for feedback and accountability.
Students personalized the covers of their writing journals with the things that inspire them or bring them joy.
The Writing Workshop Model
Every Friday, students met in their workshop groups (each one consisting of 3-4 students) to share their writing, celebrate one another, and give each other constructive feedback. Workshops were students led. Facilitators changed weekly and were provided a script to guide their group through the workshop.
This model gave students agency over their own learning and writing. It allowed them to not only share their writing, but also to self-identify their strengths and ask for the feedback they wanted. The workshops also allowed students to see both their own writing skills and their peers' writing skills grow each week.
In preparation for our workshops, students uploaded something they wrote along with a reflection on that piece to slide decks like the one above every week. During the workshop, students would read their writing out loud to the group and share their personal reflection before receiving celebrations and suggestions. Celebrations and suggestions were recorded on these slides for students to reference later.
In their Author's Statements at the end of the project, students were asked to reflect on what inspires them to write and what helps them overcome writer's block. Check out what students had to say about the workshop model!
Each student selected one story from this project to publish in a class anthology and created a visual design to go along with it. We compiled these into a final anthology, and in June 2021, High Tech Middle Chula Vista's 8th grade class became published authors!
Our anthology is now up on Amazon!
We toasted our newly published authors with Martinelli's Apple Cider as they read their favorite parts of their stories to the whole class.