Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Writing Prompts to Sooth Kids' Toxic Stress

Tell it like it feels.
We've heard of talk-therapy. In a class, writing can serve as an emotional release for students. Having a voice, using it in a confidential framework--a personal release of events and circumstances that a kid may really need. That is a gift from a teacher.

Research indicates children need practice expressing their feelings, identifying what is an appropriate response, and who is their support system. Writing assignments can really help.

 http://www.sharpbrains.com/blog/2008/08/22/should-social-emotional-learning-be-part-of-academic-curriculum/

Writing is a powerful outlet.
As a middle school teacher, I would ask the students to follow the pattern of a five paragraph essay (with appropriate preparation and explanation.) Each of these prompts includes a 'three' for the internal paragraphs. Yes, I'm practical enough to want to prepare them for the California State Writing Examination for Grade 7 in March.

Writing, however, can function as an outlet for a student's deep feelings.

 Here is my Number One All Time Favorite Writing Prompt; it works especially well at the beginning of school. The students are given a promise of confidentiality.

"Three Things I Want You To Know About Me."

Students can describe sports' preferences, music, family life. With seventh graders, I found they would frequently write about very serious things, too, that their dad was in prison, or how their mom had been diagnosed with cancer but is okay now. Kids can be eloquent, if someone just asks them something important. As a teacher I got to know the students very quickly, and I don't just mean that they couldn't spell or punctuate. It felt good for them to write about something important, something they chose to tell Teacher about.

Kids can be eloquent if allowed.
Although it is not just kids suffering in poverty that need a release through writing, here is more research on the importance of giving students access to expressing their personal thoughts as a release to toxic stress, and the tools to deal with emotions.

 http://blog.coreknowledge.org/2012/01/04/student-achievement-poverty-and-toxic-stress/

 http://educationnext.org/what-do-education-policymakers-do-about-toxic-stress/

Angels' fan in the midst of Dodgers' fans.

Let's not be always so serious all the time. Life for kids now is pretty stressful in general. So here is a topic that can generate fun, friendship and comradery. If you wish, the students can create powerpoints. One year I did a powerpoint of my own, the students thought it was pretty funny.
  




"Three Of The Coolest Things I've Ever Seen."

The Chivas forever.
Its amazing. Some of my students have seen the pyramids in Mexico City. They can describe, in detail to make Howard Cosell jealous, a header in a soccer game that scored the winning goal. A homerun completely unexpected. A teacher can also learn a lot about music from essays like this. The students want to share these essays, so I set up groups for them to discuss; we have a good time, showing respect for other's opinions is our number one goal. (Always Dodgers and Angels fans describing a homerun or great catch. Lots of debates between these two groups as to who is best.)

Here's a link with so many other ideas for fun in class.

http://www.info.com/classroom%20fun?cb=27&cmp=4315&gclid=CN3gq6-nva8CFSkaQgodrworvw

 Middle school kids have a very basic sense of humor, so teachers had better be ready for this one. Actually, age doesn't really mature a sense of humor in most people. So I just tell the kids to keep it 'G' rated, and try to minimize the bathroom humor with this topic.

"The Three Times I Laughed The Hardest"

I laughed so hard...
There's  lots of falling, farting, and SNL skits with these essays, but sometimes a kid's just got to be silly, and laugh awhile. Everybody does. That will sooth toxic stress for a bit.





Here's a link for help with explaining the technicalities of writing.
http://teaching.berkeley.edu/bgd/writebetter.html

 The anecdotes the kids can come up with.


Can't Touch That
Joe




Oh, the Three Coolest Things I've seen?


Close runner up--Janet Jackson's "Rhythm Nation."               





So cool.

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