Encouraging Reluctant Writers with SPAWN

Struggling with how to get reluctant writers to revise and/or strengthen their work?  A technique called SPAWN, developed by Martin, Martin, and O’Brian in 1984 and recently reintroduced by Grozo (2003) may be just what you need. The 5 writing options you can present to your students  include the following:

S – Special Powers.  The student can change some aspect of the text or topic. Their writing then explains what was changed, why it was changed and the effect of the change.

P – Problem Solving. Students are asked to write possible solutions to problems that have been proposed in the book being read or the material being studied.

A – Alternative Point of View.  The students writes about a topic or retells a story from a different character’s point of view or relates it from a different perspective.

W – What If?  Students are given the opportunity to respond to a change they have made in some aspect of the topic or the story or to a change the teacher suggests. They write about the results of the change.

N – Next. After reading a portion of the text, students describe what they think the author will discuss next, explain or have happen next and provide evidence to support their predictions.

Using Sound Sorts to Strengthen Decoding Skills

When students are learning to decode words, they most often are able to identify the beginning and ending sounds long before they can discriminate the medial sounds of words. Create word cards with words that have the same medial sounds for students to sort. For example, you might place the words: bed, red, Ted, bad, lad, mad, bid, lid, did, lead, read, bead onto cards. Ask students to read the word and think about the sounds they hear in the middle of the word. Students then sort the word cards into categories by the sound they hear in the middle of each word. This helps children think more about medial letter placements and the sounds they make.

Visualizing Text to Deepen Comprehension and Retention

Helping students visualize what they are reading helps deepen comprehension and also helps students retain information longer.

Ask students to read a specific section of text collaboratively. When they have completed the text, ask them to discuss the material and to then create a picture, diagram or mind map to show what they have learned from the text.

Students then present and explain their visual images to the class to help them clarify their own thoughts and connections.

When students create a visual image that connects to the text they have read, not only is there deeper understanding of the material, but they have also stored the information in two places in the brain, thus, deepening retention.