Posts Tagged ‘writing’

Screenplays in the Curriculum? Of Course!

Clapperboard (Credit: Photo by Will Jackson, via Flickr Creative Commons)

Television and movies are–for better or for worse–a dominating cultural force. They feed popular culture and the young minds imbibing it.

According to a 2012 Nielsen report, teens watch about 22 hours of television a week. And that’s not including movies, social media, YouTube, videos, and all sorts of other technologies.

Educators may find all of this media exposure distracting to their students. According to a report by Common Sense Media, “Many teachers think their students use of entertainment media has hurt their academic performance.”

So what’s an educator to do?

I recently watched the School Library Journal webcast Pop Literacy. (I highly recommend it.) It’s a great overview of how (and why) to incorporate pop culture into your curriculum, including a fascinating discussion of the word “appropriate” in terms of pop culture in the classroom.

One thing, in particular, struck me as worthwhile, fun, and exciting for students, as well as for teachers.


If young people are watching an average of three hours or more of television a day, it probably would benefit them to know WHAT they are watching and HOW it got there. Television shows and movies require a lot of elements along to way to becoming a finished product. One of the first? A screenplay.

A screenplay, or a script, is created by one person or a team of writers. Dialogue, interaction, action, and reaction, setting, set design, costume, and prop descriptions are woven together to create a world not just to be imagined, as in a book, but also to be brought into form.

How can this project be beneficial to students?

Most students watch and enjoy television. They are drawn in by the story, intrigued by the characters, immersed in the narrative, invested in its conclusion. Some students do not enjoy classroom creative writing–the process can be intimidating and overwhelming. Screenwriting is a way to engage students as part of the collaborative and creative process in writing a screenplay.

Reading. You can start by reading, analyzing, and discussing a screenplay. There’s a huge selection at imsdb.com, including Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, La La Land, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. You can search by genre, or for a specific script. For younger students, try the read-aloud plays in SIRS Discoverer.

Discussion. Introduce students to the codes and conventions of screenwriting and review the significance of the three-act structure. Explore how to create a unique voice for each character and consider why a convincing setting is an important element of the screenplay.

Writing. Your students now have a basic idea of the screenwriting process and screenplay elements. Now, divide the students into teams, give them parameters, and set them to work imagining, discussing, and writing! Try this Writing a Screenplay lesson plan for guidance and inspiration.

Ready to move one step further and create student films from the finished screenplays? This filmmaking unit for 6th through 8th grade students gives an overview of the process.

Interested in learning more about screenwriting in the classroom? Check out the links below.

Teaching Scriptwriting, Screenplays and Storyboards for Film and TV Production
How to Bring Screenwriting into the Classroom
Teaching Screenwriting to Teenagers
Scriptwriting in the Classroom

Do you have thoughts about or experiences with screenwriting as an activity for your students? We’d love to hear them! Tweet us #ProQuest.

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Harper Lee Through the Years

Harper Lee brought readers into fictional Maycomb, Alabama through the narration of a young girl named Scout. Lee’s brilliant story shed light on the topic of racial discrimination and class inequality during a time when these issues were growing, especially in the South. We don’t easily forget Scout and Harper Lee’s novel, “To Kill a Mockingbird” is a piece of literature that has transcended generations. The American novelist we used to only know for her first book, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” excited readers everywhere when she released a second book, “Go Set a Watchman” in 2015.

Born on April 28 in 1926, Nelle Harper Lee lived a mostly private life. She didn’t give many interviews, but when she did, her words resonated. Though her health fluctuated over the years, she remained an active inspiration. She never married or had any children, but her literary contributions kept her busy. She had a sister Alice Lee who lived to 103 and died in 2014 as well as two other siblings who have also passed. Harper Lee passed away on Feb 19, 2016, and in remembrance of her, I wanted to create an infographic highlighting her major milestones.

Find more information on the life and legacy of Harper Lee in SIRS Renaissance, SIRS Discoverer, and eLibrary.

Do you have a favorite Harper Lee quote or excerpt? Comment in the space below or Tweet us at #ProQuest!

Where Writing Can Take You This Summer

"Tell Your Story." Photo Credit: Damian Gadal / Foter / CC BY

“Tell Your Story.” Photo Credit: Damian Gadal / Foter / CC BY

Creative writing, poetry, fiction, short stories and so many other types of expressive writing are sometimes taken for granted in school when rigid educational standards and testing are prioritized. Writing, however, is a skill that goes hand in hand with reading and literacy and should be practiced in all forms including creative ones. Crafting a story from the imagination is a talent that cultivates creative thinking and should be encouraged. Whether you’re just starting to write, college-bound, working or interested in taking a writing class, opportunities are endless. You may be surprised at how many doors will open when you know how to craft stories and poetry. This summer, challenge yourself to start writing and see where it can take you. As Dr. Seuss wrote, “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!”

Here are five wonderful places where writing can take you this summer:

1. Writing poetry can lead you to compete:

If you have an interest in writing poetry, there are contests and competitions you may want to check out. Blue Mountain Arts Poetry Card Contest is one in particular that awards you and doesn’t require an entry fee. The contest is held bi-annually and you can enter as many times as you wish. Non-rhyming verse is preferred.

2. Writing can encourage you to craft your talent:

Sometimes writing camps are good options for young writers who want to attend a program over the summer. You meet other like-minded writers and get to have your work critiqued. One such program offered by the Emerging Writers Institute allows 10th-12th graders to craft works of poetry, fiction, plays and more under the guidance of talented instructors. This particular program is housed in residence at top universities and dates are available in 2-week time-frames throughout the summer.

3. Writing can inspire you to visit the local library:

Believe it or not, your library does offer writing workshops and classes over the summer. Chances are it also offers these services year-round. Check with your local librarian to find out what writing classes and events are being offered in your hometown. Once you start writing, you may visit the library more often to find new books to inform your writing. Also check out National Novel Writing Month in November and see what you can do to prepare for it this summer.

4. Writing can take you on a travel adventure:

Sometime in the course of your education, you may get an opportunity to study abroad. Writers have many options available to them to do this. One program to consider is the Prague Summer Program for Writers which now operates as an independent entity. Being able to apply directly removes the obstacle of being enrolled at a specific university. If this program isn’t right for you, there are lots of others. Beginning a writing journey this summer can prepare you for a study abroad adventure next summer!

5. Writing can teach you about yourself:

The terms “writer” and “introvert” are often associated together. This does not mean every writer is an introvert or every introverted person is automatically a writer. The association comes from society’s idea that if you write, you are more attuned with your inner self and thus able to channel that better with words. I have learned that writing can teach you a lot about yourself and your inner voice. The more you write, the better you become at listening to what it’s trying to tell you. Let your words be your guide and you will always find your way. The New York Times op-ed “Writing My Way to a New Self” by Hana Schank provides a firsthand account of how this sentiment is illustrated by writing.

Where is writing leading you? Let us know in the comments section or Tweet us at #ProQuest!

5 Prewriting Activities to Prevent Writer’s Block

Created by Christie Riegelhaupt with Canva


It is every student’s nightmare. A deadline for a research paper looms, but a laptop screen stays blank. We’ve all experienced it: writer’s block. Writer’s block is often a symptom of being unprepared.

Much attention is given to the actual act of writing, but we often forget that prewriting is essential to successful writing. Prewriting—as the name implies—is the process that precedes writing. It includes researching, brainstorming, and planning. Prewriting exercises can help prevent writer’s block and, in turn, free students from needless frustration.

There are no wrong answers to prewriting exercises. The goal is to explore a research topic. Eventually, interesting ideas and questions will emerge, which will lead to a well-developed research thesis.




Start with a topic and then list words related to the main topic. Keep listing until ideas run out. Circle words that are worth pursing further.




Image by Jeff Wyman via Microsoft Word

Similar to listing, clustering is great for visual learners. Start with a topic and then branch off with related words. Keep branching until ideas run out.



Start free writing with a sentence that summarizes a topic. Then write anything that comes to mind about a topic. Forget about spelling and grammar. Writing well is not the goal; brainstorming is. Just write. Specify duration and don’t stop until time is up.



Sometimes students need structure. Journalistic questions are a great place to start. Ask and answer: who, what, when, where, why, and how?



Prewriting need not involve writing at all. Discussion among peers can inspire great ideas. Discussion can also be used in tandem with other prewriting exercises (i.e. make a list while discussing).


What prewriting activities do you use in the classroom? Tell us in the comments section below or Tweet us at #ProQuest.

Celebrate National Day on Writing!

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Writing by PublicDomainPictures [Public Domain] via Pixabay

October 20th is the National Day on Writing, established in 2009 by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE). This year’s theme, write2connect, asks how do you make “connections among ideas? People? Disciplines?”

If you are planning on a creative writing activity in your classroom or library, get started by accessing SIRS Knowledge Source for editorially-selected articles, images, websites and more. You’ll be on your way toward finding information on the art and craft of writing when you enter one of the subject headings in the search box:

  • Creative writing
  • Fiction, Stories, plots, etc.,
  • Fiction, technique


“[W]ords spun with care become gold threads that weave my life into yours and into the next person and the next, and then we are all connected and the world makes sense.” — Laurie Halse Anderson

Get inspired by listening to celebrities speak to the importance of writing and the National Day on Writing. One such celebrity is Laurie Halse Anderson, author of children’s and young adult novels, such as Speak, and winner of the Margaret A. Edwards Award from the American Library Association.

Click on the audio file to listen to the reasons why she loves to write:



Organize a writing celebration in your library or classroom. NCTE offers tips on how to get started, including conducting a poetry slam or spoken word celebration or inviting an author to share writing tips.

Click here for more examples of connect and celebrate –> How Can I Get Involved?


As this year’s National Day on Writing falls on a Sunday, NCTE is asking you to tweet your thoughts on Monday, October 21. Use the hashtag #write2connect and share your thoughts on the ways you use writing to connect! You can also share your thoughts with us by entering them in the comment box below.

Happy Writing!