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Democracy in American Education: Writing Prompts

Using Writing to Promote Critical Reading, Engagement, and Participation

Gallery Walk

One way to get students out of their chairs is to plan a “gallery walk.” In a gallery walk, students move from one station to the next at regular periods of time. At each station is a large poster-sized piece of paper with a question or prompt. Isolated textual passages or visual materials like political cartoons, art, or graphs can also be pasted onto the posters. Each student, or group of students, has an opportunity to write in response to the question or displayed material and to comment on what other students have written. After visiting each station, students are asked to analyze the various responses and compose a brief summary, which is then discussed in class.

Response Log

You may want to have your students keep a response log or journals in which they document their responses to assigned reading. You could give students specific prompts or questions about the text; or, you could offer students more leeway to respond on a personal level. The following list of “sentence-starters” can be helpful for students as they begin writing about their reading. Feel free to adapt it to your own needs.

Believing and Doubting

Peter Elbow developed this activity as a means of encouraging students to engage author’s ideas with greater depth. As an in-class writing exercise, ask your students to imagine that they are in agreement with the author’s position and to find other examples to support his/her argument. Then ask them to play the devil’s advocate and identify all of the things that are wrong with the author’s argument.

Writing Across the Curriculum