Prompts and the TIP Writing Process
The TIP Writing Process is an approach to balanced literacy practice in which writing instruction is understood as a three-level approach to teaching.
- TEACH writing strategies directly to students
- INTRODUCE skills and mechanics in mini-lessons
- Allow time for frequent and sustained PRACTICE
Is the TIP Writing Process prompt friendly? The answer is an overwhelmingly positive yes! Throughout the process students are faced with many exercises that are specifically designed to help pave the way to respond to completely random writing prompts, the kind one might find on state writing examinations. The process of developing skills for addressing issues of prompts, however, is not explicit—if it were it would lose an underlying sense of authenticity in the process. We want to provide three specific examples of how the TIP Writing Process addresses prompted writing.
The Friday Essay
The Friday Essay asks students to write an essay addressing either a motivational quotation such as: Never, ever quit! (Winston Churchill), or a study tip, for example: Always make a priority list of what you must study and then follow that list, checking off each completed task. Often schools provide agenda books that include both types of quotes. Our intent is to create an appendix to include 40 motivational and 40 study guide quotations for teachers to use for the Friday Essay. The Friday essay may be written in class any time the class meets on Friday but never on Monday through Thursday. Why else would it be called the Friday Essay? The Friday Essay may also be assigned as homework. Without actually telling students that they are practicing prompted writing, the Friday Essay provides an authentic approach to developing the skills to respond to prompts in a meaningful way.
Timed Writing Strategies
Two timed writing strategies address the issue of prompted writing. The first is the basic timed writing exercise. Round Robin Writing provides a second.
Beginning with a single word, for example HOLIDAY, students brainstorm what the word reminds them of. They are instructed to write continuously about one of their ideas generated during their brainstorming session from the start signal to the stop signal. Students are then instructed to read what they just wrote and find a word or phrase they would like to write more about. They then write about the extended thought following the same rules. The directions are repeated three to four times giving students 1.5 to 5 minutes intense writing time for each segment—the process builds into longer time periods as it is repeated. Writing is analyzed for coherence and flow by the students as the pieces are read aloud.
This strategy helps students develop skills to brainstorm unfamilliar prompts and to develop skills to extend writing by building on what has already been written.
Round Robin Writing
Much like basic timed writing, Round Robin Writing builds on an initial prompts. A round robin prompt is longer and always ends unfinished, for example:
The night was cold and damp. We all huddled around the campfire cooking Smores and telling stories. Low clouds were glowing orange, illuminated by the glowing embers of our campfire. A lone owl hooted in the trees to our left while a coyote howled in the distance. Frogs croaked in the nearby swamp and crickets chirped in the tall grass of the clearing where we made our camp. All seemed right with the world when suddenly…
What differes in Round Robin Writing is that students are instructed to exchange papers at the end of each timed session so that they have a new story in front of them at each turn. This high interest exercise engages students at all ages and, while it is designed primarily as a way to engage students in reading/writing connections, it secondarily focuses on prompt type writing.
Some Concluding Thoughts
The TIP Writing Process is prompt friendly. What is important to realize is that the fundamental force of the process is to engage students, to help students to enjoy writing so much that they don’t realize that what they are doing is actually good for them. So we are never explicit with students. We never begin a lesson with words like, “Now students, we are going to work on writing prompts.” We can almost hear the sound of heads banging on desks as students fall asleep just thinking about the torture of writing to a prompt. By not being explicit we find students beg for more, especially timed writing and round robin writing.
Students taught writing through the TIP Writing Process tend to perform well on high-stakes writing tests. In Lawrenceville, Texas students working with the TIP Writing Process for and entire academic year moved their writing scores from a miserable 44% pass rate to a 78% pass rate on the TAAS writing test (Passman, 2003; Passman & Duran-Klenclo, 2002). The paradox of extraordinary student performance when engaged in non-explicit instruction speaks volumes for engaged classroom experiences.
Passman, R. (2003). Overcoming Consequences: Using Reflection as a Compensatory Tool for Addressing Reductionist Curriculum Policies. Paper presented at the Fourth International Federation of Teachers of English Conference: Transforming Literacies Changing English, Elsewheres of Potential, July 5-8, 2003, Melbourne, Australia.
Passman, R., & Duran-Klenclo, P. (2002). Teachers talk about change: Reflection as professional development (Vol. ED 465 723).