Posts Tagged ‘Directions’

How to Create Writing Prompts

I laugh to think about the time my friend Courtney and I tried to create a writing prompt for 11th graders during our student teaching. We started with “In an essay, tell whether Rappacini is a good guy or a bad guy…” We ended up getting some really low-level papers back, way beneath what the students were capable of. Guess what? Our assignment prompt was really low level!

Here is a guide to making smart prompts in order to get smart work back:

CRAFTS Writing Prompts Guide

C- Context

R- Role


F- Format

T- Topic

S- Strong Verb


Within the novel, Tangerine, by Edward Bloor, the Lake Windsor Downs community has recently experienced muckfires and mosquito infestations. You are the President of the Homeowners Association. In a monthly newsletter to the residents of Lake Windsor Downs, explain what has happened and describe what the association is doing to fix the problems.

C- Lake Windsor Downs community has recently experienced muckfires and mosquito infestations.

R- You are the President of the Homeowners Association.

A-    residents of Lake Windsor Downs

F- Newsletter

T- explain what has happened and describe what the association is doing to fix the problems.

S- Explain, Describe


Seat Signals

Seat Signals are a clever way to keep the classroom pace ticking along smoothly and students focused with minimal distractions. Unfortunately, junior high kiddos aren’t exactly low-key with their needs, so it is important to create very low-key ways to take care of business and continue with the learning.

Raised Hand

Seat Signals- nonverbal ways students indicate to the teacher they need something without getting up from their desks.

  • Bathroom Visits- raise hand with hall pass out on desk to be signed.
  • Pencil Sharpening- hold up pencil in raised hand. Wait for teacher to visit desk and switch out student’s pencil for a sharpened one. Keep lots of sharpened pencils on hand. They can pick their pencil up at the end of class.
  • Tissue- raise hand and pinch nose with other hand.
  • Library Visits- hold up book in raised hand with hall pass out on desk to be signed.

All of these nonverbal requests should also be responded to nonverbally- either a nod of a head indicating a “yes,” a pencil or tissue handed to the student, or a hand signaling, “not now” or “in 5 minutes.”

You might be wondering why sharpen the pencils for the students…well, pencil sharpening is a loud and time consuming process. The sharpener in my class is attached rather high on a bookcase and its screws are loose so the whole thing wobbles. Naturally, the short kid without a steady arm gets a junk pencil every time. I’m just going to take it down and buy an electric sharpener for my desk, just for me to use!

Notice that for trips outside the classroom, the students have hall passes which must be signed. They receive these passes at the beginning of the year- 3 for each week. Once they use them, it’s too bad, so sad. This is a school-wide technique and I really love it. The students must learn to conserve passes and not use them all up on Monday. If your school doesn’t do something like this, try initiating it on your own! It’s very clear-cut and there is no ground for confusion.

So…Who Does What?

Happy Small Group

Your students are in pairs. An activity is about to begin. You tell the class, “Okay, choose someone to be the writer and someone to be the speaker.” Bad idea. At this point you probably have a classroom full of partners playing the staring contest. Are you counting on your students in the partnership to have the maturity or take-charge mindset to delegate a role or take a job that is out of their comfort zone?? Uh-uh. Not gonna happen. Let’s go back in time and do this right.

Assign Students with Group/ Partner Roles…the Right Way

  1. Your students are in pairs.
  2. Look at each other. Pick someone to be the duck and someone to be the goose. Done? Okay good.
  3. The duck will be the writer and the goose will be the speaker. Annnnd….go!

Duck and Goose

Why This Works-

  • Deciding to be a duck or goose is easy. It’s arbitrary and meaningless.
  • Later, when it’s task time- there is no awkward dance. Everyone has been assigned a role.
  • This allows some students who would never volunteer themselves for a particular task to get a chance to branch out. It also allows those students who have a tendency to take charge and overshadow their group members to get a smaller role than usual.

Giving Directions

I’m currently reading Teach Like a Champion by Doug Lemov. He has mad credentials (that I am too lazy to list) and works as a teaching consultant. Even in the introduction he caught my interest with useful tips. Usually you don’t get useful stuff in the introduction of the book, you get obligatory thank yous, inspirational sayings, etc. So starting off, I’m already impressed.

Doug Lemov understands that teachers can be pretty thick, just like students can be (yes, finally! Someone who does not overestimate my ability!) He stresses concrete guidance.

“When you want them to follow your directions, stand still. If you’re walking around passing out papers, it looks like the directions are no more important than all of the other things you’re doing. Show that your directions matter. Stand still. They’ll respond.”

It sounds so, so simple. However, who hasn’t tried to tell students what to do while also running around like Mrs. Frizzle on RedBull?

Stand still when giving instructions

  • You will speak more clearly- taking time to enunciate, giving a steady delivery rate, making eye contact with students
  • You will nonverbally imply that your words are important- stop and take notice!
  • You will be focused on if the class understands what to do, versus being unaware of confusion, or more likely, oblivious to your word vomit.

Teach Like a Champion

Doug Lemov-

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