Why students should speak before writing

Why students should speak before writing

There are two things that I recommend when it comes to improving student's writing. The first is the oral rehearsal of sentences, and the second is to manipulate the language before you commit it to the page or screen.

Oral rehearsal of the sentences is actually saying the sentence out loud before students write it or type it. There are a couple of reasons why they should do this. 

Firstly, it allows students to iron out any sentence problems before it is committed to paper or the screen. Practising the sentence by speaking it will enable you to hear whether the sentence makes sense. Whether it flows. If there are parts that need to be changed. Whether or not it is grammatically correct. 

Another reason to speak before writing is that it will identify knowledge gaps very quickly. A favourite saying I've used for a long time is that you cannot write what you cannot say. You cannot say what you can't think. And you cannot think what you don't know. If students can't finish a sentence when talking, they will quickly realise they need more information before picking up a pen.


The final reason I have to offer is that it saves students time. Writing without pausing to process what you mean to say is difficult. And once students have established their writing, they are often reluctant to spend time fixing up something in which they have invested a lot of time and energy. 

So an oral rehearsal of sentences saves a lot of time down the track. It allows students to test out their words before committing to some degree of permanency.

The second thing that is very helpful with writing development is manipulating language. That is, playing around with the order of words. These exercises are where the sentence starters featured in the How to write what you want to say... series come into their own. 

Have your students look at the notes they have made in their graphic organisers and then have a few goes at putting those notes into sentences. Perhaps they will start with a sentence starter. Maybe they will start with the information. They could combine two bullet points together or even try to connect three points. 

This should also be rehearsed out loud, as it's very fast and easy to play around with the sentence structure when you don't have to write it down.



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