The second objective deals with the actual writing assignments. This is an eight-week unit which serves as an introduction to a year-long writing curriculum. The emphasis will be on the pre-writing or “How do I get started?” phase. The students will be exposed to a variety of activities ranging in difficulty from simple to more complex. They will be encouraged to be fluent and generate a great number of ideas. They will be urged to be flexible and change categories. They will be given opportunities to be original and come up with unique ideas as well as take one idea and elaborate on it.
The warm-up activities will generally be in a large group or small group setting. The products of the assignments will generally be individual. The students’ work will be kept in individual folders, to be referred to when necessary. These activities will encourage the students to brainstorm, to eliminate their conceptual blocks, and to solve problems creatively. They will then be ready to attack their writing assignments.
At the beginning the students should work with words. As all of these assignments will be written in Spanish, I recommend that there be several dictionaries available for the students’ use, both the Spanish-English, English-Spanish and the all Spanish kinds. This will enable the students to work with subtilties and shades of meaning.
The students might be given a person, place or thing and asked to list all the descriptive words. For example, I would give the word “la plays” (beach). The students might list: “el verano” (summer) “el cielo” (sky) “trajes de ba–o” (bathing suits) “jugar” (to play) “la guitarra” (guitar) “la radio” (radio) “la mÄsica” (music) “nadar” (to swim) “agua fria” (cold water) “hace calor” (it is hot) “nubes” (clouds) “piedras” (stones) “arena” (sand) “muchachas bonitas” (pretty girls) “azul” (blue) “blanco” (white) “pardo” (brown) “verde” (green). These words describe the beach but I would ask them to do it again and this time just list the descriptive adjectives, ve s, or nouns associated with “la plays.” Each student should come up with a list containing as many adjectives, verbs, or nouns as he/she can find which will be different from everyone else’s. Putting a condition on an assignment forces students to use their creativity.
The students might be shown an object and asked to describe what it looks like in words, phrases, or sentences. It should be an object that has many possibilities, such as a flower or a plant, an animal, a toy, a machine, etc.
The teacher might ask the students to create a puzzle or a rebus for a list of words. This could be a small group activity. When the puzzle or rebus has been completed, the groups could exchange them and try to solve them.
A musical composition could be played for the students. After they have listened to it, or while it is being played, they could be asked to write down the words and/or expressions which the music brings to mind. A poem could then be written using those words and expressions.
Another idea for encouraging students to use descriptive words is to ask them to list all the colors, emotions, senses, images, etc. that a particular word evokes. This part could be done as a large or small group. Then, individually, the students would be asked to select the five most unusual ones and arrange them on a piece of paper in a design.
To encourage the students to use descriptive sentences, the teacher could show them a picture. They would then be asked to describe the picture in five sentences.
Also, the students might each be given a piece of paper and asked to write a beginning sentence or two of a story. At a given signal they are to switch papers with the person next to them, and write another sentence or two to that story. This could be done in small groups. When all students have received their own story back, it is time to share it with the group. The group can then decide which story they think is the best to be shared with the rest of the students.
Poetry is a natural outlet for the students’ writing. It lends itself to most of the activities mentioned above. A good way to approach teaching the students how to write poetry is the one explained by Kenneth Koch in
Where Did You Get That Red
Teaching Great Poetry to Children
(New York: Random House, Inc., 1973).
Kenneth Koch recommends that students be introduced to great poetry after they have written many of their own poems. He also suggests that warm-up activities be used to enhance the actual writing assignment. For example, if the assignment is to write a poem about music, then the warm-up activity could include responses to the following questions: What is the color of the sound of a drum? What texture is a half note? What animal does a violin (tuba, bassoon, etc.) make you think of? These kinds of activities help the students to become free and think more creatively.
One of the first poems a student could be asked to write might take the form of what Koch calls a “class collaboration.” In a large group or as an entire class, the students would each contribute one line of a poem. Each line should have a particular item in it such as a color, sound, taste, smell, feeling, emotion, number, animal, season, etc. The lines could then be arranged into a poem.
The students could also be given a list of words of which must must be used in a poem. These could be vocabulary words being studied, or a random list of adjectives, adverbs, verbs, nouns, question words such as “¿dónde?” “¿quién?” “¿cómo?” “¿cuándo?” “¿cuánto?” etc.
The students could write on certain themes such as holidays, their family, themselves, pets, hobbies, everyday happenings, seasons, the weather, things they like or dislike, etc. To encourage a creative approach to these themes, the teacher could require that the students write as if they were the object, animal, etc.
The teacher could take the students for a walk. As they are walking, the students should be writing down impressions, sights, smells, etc. When they return to the classroom, these jottings could be written as a poem.
Metaphors and similes can enrich the students’ vocabulary and enhance their poetry. In several writing assignments the students will be encouraged to use these types of comparisons to develop new imagery in their poems. At first they could write a poem together in a large or small group, with each person contributing a line with a simile in it. They could write their own poems with similes in every line or perhaps, they could take one simile and write a poem around it.
The students could work with metaphors in the same way as they would for similes. The teacher could give them a list of metaphors from which they choose three which they then would use in a poem. The students could make up their own list of metaphors as a group, which would be used by individual students in their poems.
As the students have written many poems at this point, the teacher could introduce some Spanish poetry from which they could derive inspiration. I would suggest the following poets and poems: “El arpa” by Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer, sections of “La vida es sue–o” by Pedro Calderón de la Barca, “Soneto” by Miguel de Cervantes, “Dice m’a” by Rubén Dario, “Consulta” by Federico Garc’a Lorca, “Seguidillas” and “Maya” by Lope de Vega, “Retrato” by Antonio Machado, “El pensador de Rodin” by Gabriela Mistral, and “Castilla” by Miguel de Unamuno. Each poem would be read and discussed with the emphasis on use of metaphors, imagery, emotions expressed by the poet, etc. The students would then write their own poems based on the discussion.