John Claude Bemis grew up in eastern North Carolina, and attended UNC Chapel Hill. Through teaching he realized his passion for writing and now combines both talents as an award winning author and leader of various workshops throughout North Carolina and beyond.
I recently had the privilege of listening to a presentation at the monthly Raleigh-Wake Reading Council that Mr. Bemis gave on how to stretch your students’ imaginations and come up with exciting ideas for that dreaded first page! I was impressed by the insights Mr. Bemis shared that can inspire students and motivate them to succeed. So, how do you inspire students to “exercise” their imagination and write compelling stories?
There are many different ways to go about this process. Mr. Bemis shared several ideas. Speaking from my own experiences as a reading teacher, the instructional practices Mr. Bemis shared for encouraging students and stretching their creativity during the writing process is spot on. Not only are the techniques easy to implement, they are extremely motivational. Therefore, students are much more likely to hone their writing skills to an even greater extent by practicing on their own.
Today, I will touch briefly on one technique that Mr. Bemis recommends.
- Ask “What if…. ” questions.
Why is this effective?
What if questions are not finite. There are many different answers to open-ended questions. Everyone has a unique perspective and this opens the door to many different opinions. Open discourse stimulates the imagination, creates an inclusive environment, increases participation and perhaps most importantly, engages students to explore further, take chances, and write. Any type of “hook” that draws students in, can serve as a tool to motivate students to achieve. When students are passionate about learning how to do something they will carve out the time necessary to practice on their own. Writing is a skill that requires many different components. At the elementary level, writing is not always presented in a manner that meets the needs of students. Daily practice is essential. Inspiring students to be creative and use their imagination is an underutilized technique that can motivate children at a much younger age to put pen(cil) to paper and “practice” consistently. Regardless of the type of writing, the academic demands are increasing. However, the ways in which it is taught can, and do make a difference in how students learn to write. Mr. Bemis uses effective instructional techniques supported by empirical data to engage, motivate and teach others. He practices what he preaches by inspiring others as an educator, author, and motivational speaker.