I don't know about you, but I spend a lot of time and energy encouraging my students to produce not just quality but also quantity. One way I've found to do that is to let them compose online; this seems to exponentially increase how much they write.
But there's a time, too, for writing less.
Let's face it; getting a point across in as few words as possible is just as important as being able to write or talk at length. How many of us have endured a two hour staff meeting or workshop to hear only fifteen minutes of actual content (that could have been emailed)?
Below are some fab web sites that will test your students' ability to "cut to the chase." Some offer models for writing, while others can be used as interactive platforms for student writing.
One Sentence: True Stories, Told in One Sentence challenges writers to submit single sentence stories. "Insignificant stories, everyday stories, or turning-point-in-your-life stories, boiled down to their bare essentials" is what this site seeks. Readers vote stories up or down, and even unapproved stories are given the chance to be "rescued" by readers.
One sentence isn't enough? Try some Two Sentence Stories. Interesting that, for the most part, these don't tell much more than the One Sentence Stories.
Chances are that many of your students already know My Life is Average. Submitters post short stories (which are allegedly true) and readers can, again, vote. Some of these are pretty good, even if contrived. Three recent examples (click on the image to see the whole thing):
One Word is simple. According to the site's equally simple instructions, "You’ll see one word at the top of the following screen. You have sixty seconds to write about it. Click ‘go’ and the page will load with the cursor in place. Don’t think. Just write." When you click the go button, you're presented with a blank text box and a timer bar at the page's bottom. Once your time runs out, the site allows you to complete your last sentence and then post. Once you're posted, you're able to scroll through other writers' creations (which is cool since, after all, you were all writing on the same word). Each day presents a new word, and you can also scroll back to previous prompts to read what's there. You can, of course, do your own version of this concept (even off-line), but some of your writers will dig sharing virtually with others.
Six Sentences. This is where true talent surfaces as writers flesh out characters, motives, events, and settings.
Looking for a text to further inspire you or your students in the search for brevity? Try Not Quite What I Was Planning. These Six Word Memoirs by Famous and Obscure Writers feature fantastic thoughts on life, captured in just six words. Stephen Colbert’s six-word memoir, for example, “Well, I thought it was funny,” can be read to mean different things when emphasis is placed on different words. If you search YouTube with this book's title, you'll find many videos where teachers have compiled students' sentences in response to this challenge; definitely a short, simple tech project there for the taking!
This last site is for those of us living within evacuation distance of NYC. Overheard in New York is a fun and revealing collection of brief dialogues overheard in the boroughs and recorded for all time. Some of these conversations are hilarious, while others are simply puzzling. Depending upon tone and timing, they can be read and understood in so many ways. Great for a dialogue about emphasis, context, and point of view. Warning: some are not school appropriate, so you may wish to browse the site to choose for yourself. (It seems this site has expanded to include Overheard Everywhere, which might be more useful to my readers in general).
So encourage students to write less, and see if they're not newly inspired.
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