Extreme Writing Makeover

I’m in my second year of using El Internado in my intermediate classes, and it has started me thinking.  (This is why–after 20+ years of teaching–lesson planning still is a work in progress!)  The time had come for us to talk about subjunctive in more concrete terms, so this year I am teaching subjunctive through El Internado, and the process has been the most smooth I’ve seen yet.  Instead of talking about what fulano or your mom wants, having the tangible characters of Paula and Marcos wanting their parents to come back or María wanting (spoiler) to know that he is her (spoiler) has just made the whole thing make a lot more sense.  Because they care about the characters, they are focused on expressing ideas rather than obsessing about which rule of usage applies.  But also because they care about the characters, they want to get it right.

This is what was running in the back of my mind when I stumbled upon some photo-based writing prompts from the writeabout.com.  Designed for English classes, they have a ton of creative, interesting writing prompts that will get students thinking, caring, and wanting to get it right like what has been going on for us with El Internado.  While most are going to be intermediate-advanced level prompts/story starters as written, there are some that are adaptable to an upper novice level such as:


Here’s one I’m planning to use when we talk about commands in the intermediate class:


One for an art unit:


And then one that might just be in a collection of student choice options:



The first thing that resonates with me is how much student choice is inherently embedded in the topics. They are specific enough to inspire creativity and thought, yet they open a wide world of options in choosing which direction to take. I think that even students who don’t like to write will find something to say about them.  This is what I have found with El Internado too: their desire to express their ideas overwhelms their hesitations about using Spanish to do so.  Motivation and choice is powerful–powerful enough to overcome fear.

Writeabout is a publishing platform too, but I haven’t investigated it yet.  At this point I’m planning to put the questions in Spanish and use them periodically as writing assignments/assessments.  There are over 100 of the prompts on their Facebook page.

How do you inspire students to invest in their learning process? Please chime in in the comments!


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