Student/Teacher: Using Student-Generated Writing Prompts
Teacher: Linda Stewart, Kennesaw State University

Overview: Students take turns selecting a writing prompt for the class. Prompts may be drawn from sources that suggest the history or community culture of suburbia such as a brief news article, surprising statistic, a photo, a symbol or image, a letter, poem, or short personal anecdote. Each student in his or her role as prompter has an opportunity to begin a class with an idea, collect the responses, write a summary, and report the observations back to the class at the next class meeting. This assignment introduces an array of local and national community issues and encourages student-centered community building through writing, research, and response.

Materials: Students need pen and paper to write their responses. The student offering the writing prompt may need access to a computer, a CD player, or other equipment depending on his or her selection. They should check with the teacher before their designated day.

Time: Approximately 10 — 15 minutes at the beginning of each class meeting throughout the semester.

Instructional Sequence:

  1. Students write their names on a sign-up sheet for the day and class for which they will be responsible. Copy this sheet and distribute to all students for their records.

  2. Each student is asked to identify a topic for a writing prompt drawn from suburban culture to generate writing responses from their classmates and be prepared to present it within two minutes to the class on their designated day.

  3. The student prompter presents the writing activity to the class within two minutes, perhaps briefly summarizing from a news article or asking students to view an image from a website.

  4. This student prompter gives the class five minutes to handwrite their responses to the prompt, keeping track of the time and offering a one-minute warning.

  5. The teacher writes with the students.

  6. This student prompter collects all these responses, takes them home, briefly comments on each one, and writes a summary of his or her observations. At the following class meeting, this student reports his or her observations to the class once the next student has introduced another prompt. This summary is then turned into the teacher or posted to an online discussion board.

  7. The student prompter returns the responses to his or her classmates.

Evaluation: This activity should NOT be graded by the teacher for it is structured to encourage student-generated research, foster community among classmates, and warm up the writing and thinking "muscles." The writing that emerges should be considered a freewrite which ranges from persuasive to poetic. Simply record that the students have completed this activity. A grade could be assigned to the written summary the prompter submits.



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