Encouraging Reluctant Writers through the Use of Multimodal Formats

Article excerpt

I first began using digital writing activities with children in the late 1990s, while working as a learning support teacher in a small Queensland primary school. Most of the children with whom I worked disliked any and all writing tasks and had little belief in their ability as literacy learners. The introduction of writing in multimodal formats into my support program proved to be very successful in motivating children to want to write.

When I returned to classroom teaching in 1999, I was delighted to have four networked desktop computers and a new laptop in my classroom. My Year 7 class comprised eight girls and twenty boys, several of whom were reluctant writers, so digital writing projects quickly became a daily part of class routine. The following activities outline some practical strategies for incorporating multimodal writing experiences to engage reluctant writers and allow them to experience success.

1. E-choose your own adventure stories

This activity is an adaptation of the old 'choose your own adventure' books which have been popular with children for many years. By inserting hypertext links into a narrative, it is easy to develop a narrative with multiple story paths.

Reading narrative multimodal texts is a more active process than the way in which text is traditionally read. Following hypertext links in a story encourages active reading whereby the reader's choices essentially shape the text. The active reading involved in these activities tends to hold more appeal for 'at risk' readers and writers than does engaging with conventional texts.

This activity can be undertaken by individuals or groups of children. I have always chosen to adopt a collaborative approach to this activity as this allows reluctant writers to engage in an interesting writing task in a supportive environment.

Teaching/ Learning Objectives

* Students will begin to develop a positive self-image as writers.

* Students will further their understanding of the structure and features of the narrative genre.

* Students will work cooperatively when planning and writing their stories.

* Students' keyboarding/word processing skills will improve with practice in a purposeful context.

* Students will be able to use web authoring software to create pages for their adventure stories.

Hypertext linked fiction can be used for a number of purposes in an English program:

* Innovating on a text which the children have studied in class. For example, as part of a study of ancient Greek hero myths, the class retells part of the myth, 'Theseus and the Minotaur' and then develops alternative story paths in small groups.

* Writing an original narrative. For example, during a unit on Australian history, the children develop a narrative about a bushranger. With the teacher, they jointly construct an orientation and then develop alternative complications and resolutions for the narrative in small groups.

* Retelling a narrative text from the perspective of different characters. For example, during a novel study of The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien, the children retell a series of events from the perspectives of Bilbo Baggins, Thorin Oakenshield or Gandalf.

 
Theseus and the Minotaur--What if? 
 
Prince Androgeus of Crete was murdered in Athens on the eve of the 
Olympic Games. His father, King Minos of Crete, was grief stricken. He 
declared war on Athens and only agreed to peace if King Aegeus promised 
to sacrifice seven young men and seven maidens to the Minotaur every 
year. So every year for seven years, fourteen young Athenians were sent 
to Crete to be sacrificed to the Minotaur. 
 
Theseus, son of King Aegeus, was a brave and handsome young man. He 
offered to go to Crete with the young people to kill the Minotaur. King 
Aegeus was horrified at this idea but Theseus insisted. … 

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