I recently stumbled across an Internet gem that has been floating around teacher blogs for a while.

A teacher named David Didau came up with it and calls it “slow writing”. Here’s how he describes it:

“I first came up with the idea when teaching an intervention class  of Year 11 C/D borderline boys in about 2008. Broadly speaking they were willing, but no matter what I tried the writing they produced was leaden, plodding stuff. I gave them all kinds of outlandish and creative prompts which would… produce yet another dreary yawnfest. Needless to say, we were all getting a bit irritated with each other. Out of sheer frustration I decide to give them explicit instructions on how to write a text sentence by sentence.

Sort of like this:

  • Your first sentence must starting with a present participle (that’s a verb ending in ‘ing’)
  • Your second sentence must contain only three words.
  • Your third sentence must contain a semi-colon
  • Your fourth sentence must be a rhetorical question
  • Your fifth sentence will start with an adverb
  • Your sixth sentence will be 22 words exactly!

And so on. Much to my surprise they loved it. I remember one boy saying, “This is the first time I’ve written anything that isn’t rubbish!” and asking if he could take it home to show his mum.”

The idea is that on their own, novice or struggling writers will resort to the path of least resistance: short, simple sentences that leave much to be desired! But if you can explicitly guide them, rather than just asking them to be more creative on their own, then they themselves will be amazed at what they can produce!

And then, with practice, they need the guidance less and less. Then the process of crafting interesting sentences becomes automatic for them.

This, of course, sounds strangely like the Guided Phonetic Reading technique we use in Easyread. Maybe that’s why I like the idea of “slow writing” so much…!

Read more at Didau’s blog, here.

Sarah Forrest is a Reading Specialist for the Easyread System, an online tutoring service that uses innovative literacy techniques to help struggling learners with visual learning styles, dyslexia, auditory processing weakness and more. www.easyreadsystem.com