Sunday, May 10, 2009

Wordle Writing Fluency

"Writing is hard fun." ~ Donald Murray

Writing is not easy.

Imagine all the neurons navigating and flying through your mind as you push that pencil across the paper to inscribe your images and ideas. The image of your mind must translate to words flowing to your fingertips of the sketch in your mind to become scribbles of notes or power in prose or poetry.

To help build fluency so ideas can flow fast, develop a routine of Power Writing, based on the work of Peter Elbow. Ten minutes of time daily will enable you to move ideas from mental thoughts to written work. Here's how:

Power Writing

Create a list of at list six words that will serve as topic ideas. You may write on any topic, however.

The basic process is:
  1. Think.
  2. Write.
  3. Count.
  4. Repeat two more times.

Think about the ideas the words suggest or your own topic for twenty seconds.

Write for two minutes (you may want to start with one minute and build to three minutes; we've even written for three five minute sessions). If you get stuck, just write the last word you wrote over and over until an idea pops into your head. Your receive credit for the number of different words you write. Your fluency should improve over time.

After two minutes (or whatever time allotted), stop and count their words, writing the number at the top of the page. Some people keep track of these and take averages.

Repeat --Think. Write. Count-- two more times.

Share writing with partners.
Circle your favorite.
Edit one section.
Keep a form of each set of three with an average for each set of three.
Ask for show of hands for number of words written (80, 70, 60, etc.).

From where can you easily obtain word lists to use?

My students love the Wordles I create for our Power Writing (samples here). I google topics on which we are learning. My google searches have included:

kids moose
kids cougar
kids fairy tales

I copy and paste kid texts into Wordle to create a cloud of words on that topic. Often, I simply take a screen shot of the Wordle , but always link to their site as source.

Here is a sample Wordle of Ralph Waldo Emerson's poem Song of Nature from

A Wordle on Rumpelstiltskin:

Any of your vocabulary or spelling lists would also work. Here are some lists resources
Spelling City Word Lists

Power Point Directions, Lists, Samples:

Other content area teachers have commented, "I don't know what you're doing in writing class, but the kids can sure start writing ideas now." So, start Power Writing in your class to help your students move from ideas to words.