Lesson 8 - Writing Techniques for Adult Basic Education (ABE) Learners Illinois State Library

Writing from a Trigger Event, Semantic Webs

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Writing from a Trigger Event

This method is related to Language Experience as described in Lesson 7, Page 2. What is a trigger event? A trigger event can be anything at all. A trigger event could be a recent story that you read together, a picture, a movie, a piece of artwork, the local news, a problem, or a meaningful experience. Whatever the trigger event is, it must be interesting to the adult learner. And, it must be something in which they have experience.

The tutor should discuss the selected trigger event with the adult learner. The tutor works together with the learner to brainstorm topics, think of logical ways to present the topic, and narrow the topic into manageable tasks. Before beginning to write, the learner needs to decide why they are writing (purpose) and to whom (audience).

As a tutor, your role is to ask questions about the trigger event to start a conversation along these lines. Ask the learner "why" questions and then ask them to tell you more. To help the learner move from discussing the topic to a specific writing task ask, for example, "Shall we write a letter, story, poem?" Most of us tend to write much richer pieces when we have been given a chance to think things through, talk about it, and get a good idea of what we want to say and how we want to say it.

Semantic Webs

A semantic web is one tool to assist the learner in brainstorming and organizing. A semantic web makes the learner see the connections necessary to write a paragraph. To make a web, first put the trigger event (a word or phrase) in a large circle. Have the learner say anything that comes to mind when they think of the word. Put each thought into a smaller circle, connecting it to the large circle. Then take 5-6 of the words from the web and put them on individual index cards. The learner then takes the word on each card and creates a sentence about the trigger event using the word. Do not edit at this time.

The goal for the learner is to begin to write freely. When finished, the learner reads their own writing aloud to clarify what they wrote. Lower level learners may be assisted at any of these steps. For instance, the learner might dictate to the tutor a word to be written on the index card. The learner may also have to dictate the sentence with the tutor reading the learner's own words back.

Next, the learner can revise or rewrite, making any necessary changes.

Semantic Web Exercise

Try doing a semantic web of the word Chocolate. Draw the image below on a piece of paper. At the end of each ray, write the ideas that come to mind based on the trigger word Chocolate in the center.

Semantic Web image [Chocolate]

Semantic webs help adult learners break writing into simple steps so the process is not overwhelming.