The Write Stuff

10 Nov 2017
ByMaria Asteinza

On November 7, eighth-grade English teacher Sharan Gill gave a presentation at the Annual Conference for Middle Level Education (AMLE), in Philadelphia. "It was the first time I presented—ever," said Gill, who discussed techniques she uses with Fieldston Middle students to help them become better writers.

Gill's presentation was part of the conference's "speed-learning" breakout sessions, in which an educator sat at a table and gave the same 15-minute talk to separate groups, on a rotating basis. She spoke about High-Intensity Practice, or HIP, a program she developed with her colleagues at Avenues: The World School, where she taught prior to coming to ECFS.

"When I came to Fieldston in September, I wanted to incorporate this practice with my students," said Gill. "It begins with a 'creative warm-up,' which is about three minutes long and intended to wake up both the right and left brain." Students then generate ideas on paper and share them with the class. If they experience writer's block, Gill suggests strategies—such as making lists, jotting down observations about the room they're in, even writing gibberish—to help them get "unstuck."

"The approach is all about helping kids write down their thinking, so they don't lose track of ideas," Gill noted. "It's important that they put their thinking on paper and then share it. The share is critical. We do it every day in my classes in the middle school."