This morning I participated in my school’s Science Olympiad invitational. Middle and high school kids built rockets and towers, tested their food science and microbe knowledge, and read one another’s minds. One of our teachers, who proctored a group that built catapults, remarked, “this is how we should teach science in the classroom.”
This is also how we should teach writing, I thought.
The event I coach, Write it/Do it, involves a little clairvoyance and a lot of clarity. One student studies a two or three dimensional object and writes a set of instructions succinct yet specific enough so another student can blindly reconstruct the object. The first time I met with my group of kids for a practice session and explained the tasks of our team, one of them said “So you
‘re saying we have to read each other’s minds.”
“Yeah, pretty much.
The writing team has twenty-five minutes to write, and their directions must follow a sequence of steps and contain directives like, “In the NW quadrant, one inch from the top center, draw a two inch red line at a 45 degree angle that moves SE.”
While it is not scintillating prose, the purpose is to help his or her partner recreate the object. Details are important, along with common language. Teams with the closest dimensions and placement of elements score the highest.
Writing connect us, and reading and writing are subjects which connect all content areas. When we teach writing we need not to keep it limited to literature but enable students to make connections across the curriculum.
Here is a prompt to get your writing started. It’s a line from The Poet’s Companion, Kim Addonizzo and Dorianne Laux.
“Places leave their mark on us….”