Writing and Experiential Education: Practical Activities and Lesson Plans to Enrich Learning

ISBN: 978-1-885473-70-7
SIZE: 7.75 x 9.25
PRICE $27.95

“Through writing, students are able to clarify their own understanding and answer resounding questions not only about specific experiences but also, ultimately, about a part of their life or the larger world.”

Rapparlie has given us a very creative and practical bridge to connect writing and experiential education.  The simple theoretical foundation and helpful examples and insights will inspire educators to integrate experiential writing techniques into any educational environment.  The easy-to-use, engaging activities and lessons clearly illustrate how writing can be used to allow students to reflect on lessons learned and deepen learning around any material.


“Writing and Experiential Education offers instructors the unique opportunity to explore the relationship between concrete experiences and abstract writing practices. It highlights the importance of differentiating the presentation and explanation of subject matter not only to meet the needs of students, but also to grow their confidence as writers.”
Molly Cummings, Ed.M., English Teacher, Boston, MA

“A must-have, go-to guide for any teacher who is looking to improve writing education. 21st Century classroom instruction for adolescents demands creativity, flexibility, and authenticity. Rapparlie makes experientialism’s link to writing clear in these detailed step-by-step lesson plans for thinking and learning—adding depth to any progressive educator’s repertoire.”
Amelia Menut Duffy, English Teacher and Literacy Specialist

“Rapparlie’s approach highlights the experiential nature of learning to write and gives teachers ideas they can use in their own classrooms for engaging students with the writing process. The experiential paradigm that informs all of her activities becomes a powerful model for designing original classroom activities that fit your topic. In this way Rapparlie not only gives you some nice lures to help hook your students on the writing process, she also teaches you to fish so you can design a curriculum specifically angled to the stream of knowledge that flows through your class.”
Michael Goeller, Associate Director, Rutgers University-New Brunswick Writing Program

“Here is a demonstration of writing’s natural connection to experiential learning. The ready-to-go activities and lessons are thoughtful, creative and time-savers for educators. The activities and rationale support writing across the curriculum and character/values education, which is a focus of many educators in the 21st century. The activities are clearly explained, well organized, and include useful debriefing suggestions—ideal for novice to more advanced practitioners.”
Jen Lara, Professor of Education and Blogger

“Leslie Rapparlie’s book fills an important gap in the literature on experiential learning. It is a creative piece of work that discusses important writing techniques. Useful and practical information for educators—I highly recommend it to anyone interested in engaging their students in the writing process.”
Scott D. Wurdinger, Professor of Experiential Education and Leadership Studies, Minnesota State University, Mankato

“This book has exceptional potential for classroom teachers! The framework and theory provided are written clearly. The examples are helpful. I love the lesson plans! There are multiple uses for classroom teachers and content area teachers in science and social studies. I would encourage all of my schools to study, implement, and reflect on the lessons and activities outlined in this book!”
Jennifer Seydel, Ph.D., School Designer, Midwest Region, Expeditionary Learning Schools, Madison, WI

“Rapparlie captures her vast experience working with people in engaging ways with her love for the craft of writing, assisting educators of many disciplines to reach audiences with a renewed spark. Her selection of activities within the text will captivate students to think critically, perform socially and reflect internally. This subject is a text that is in-demand, giving educators new tools to teach critical content following methodology that is effective.”
Sam Steiger, Director, Adventure Education Program, Minnesota State University, Mankato

Excerpt from the Book

Projects and Metaphors in the Classroom

Since writing has clear application not only in the classroom but also in the professional world and individual learning pursuits, integrating experiences and activities into the classroom can only enhance learning. Wurdinger suggests in his text Using Experiential Learning in the Classroom: Practical Ideas for All Educators, that the first consideration when thinking about this is to simply look at how teaching is performed in the classroom. He points out that, “educators don’t have time to search out theory for the sake of learning theory. Theory does not drive the learning process, questions and problems do, and information is sought when it is needed” (Wurdinger 52). What he is purporting is that to see the value of experience in the classroom, an instructor only has to see that his students, when using questions to explore problems, grow, change and meet unexpected needs better than when presented with non-problem based assignments. Ruminating on theory, in and of itself, will not help a student know how to adapt to a dynamic, ever-changing world, but actively discovering answers to real-life problems will. Watching how our students learn can carry into our own teaching styles. What students want to learn in class (just like educators in professional development workshops) is not simply intellectual abstractions but rather concrete ways of handling real-world situations applicable to specific fields of interest (situations that many students have not yet experienced and may not even know to anticipate).

One way to meet this need is to have a question-driven or project-based classroom. These opportunities allow students to directly engage in the experiential learning cycle and work on projects that move beyond information needed solely for a test or paper. These kinds of projects can be essays or research papers where students formulate questions instead of having them provided. Alternatively, a mini-field experience and a post-experience writing project could deepen the primary experience (Wurdinger 54). One real-world example comes from a program called Foxfire that asked its students to collect stories from community members and compile them into a magazine, which was then published and distributed. In activities like these, “the writing project (i.e., books or magazines) drives the learning process and requires students to experience firsthand how to interview and write accurate stories about these people” (Wurdinger 57). Furthermore, when a writing project has a practical use, students generally are more disciplined and focused in their writing. Knowing that an instructor is not the only one who will read a paper and then file it away, often motivates students to put their best into their work. Not only does a project-based learning classroom result in more engagement and learning on the student’s part, it is generally more fun for both the student and the instructor.

Beyond project-based opportunities, classrooms can also be more experiential with the addition of the use of metaphor. Many of the lesson plans described later in this text suggest the use of an activity completely unrelated to writing and then propose discussion and questioning that connects that unrelated activity to writing. This is, ultimately, the use of metaphor. The reason using metaphors works is because “metaphor is pervasive in everyday life, not just in language but in thought and action” (Lakoff and Johnson 3). Many times, a person cannot understand something new until she can connect it to something she already can identify. By relating or attaching an experience to something familiar, the experience then becomes less strange and more recognizable. “It is by means of conceptualizing our experiences in this manner that we pick out the ‘important’ aspects of an experience. And by picking out what is ‘important’ in the experience, we can categorize the experience, understand it, and remember it” (Lakoff and Johnson 83). Therefore, metaphor can be an incredibly useful way to transmit concepts to students and increase information retention. For example, connecting the idea of sorting through sources during the research process to the sorting of pictures, like in Lesson 17 “Learning to Write a Research Paper,” will help students experience how they can begin organizing sources instead of simply hearing an instructor tell them it is a step they will need to complete.

Table of Contents


Chapter One: Merging Experiential Education and Writing
Experiential Education and Writing in the Classroom
Experiential Education Learning Cycle
Writing to Discover, Communicate and Make Meaning
Projects and Metaphors in the Classroom
John Dewey’s Criteria for Meaningful Educational Experiences
Preparing the Class and Classroom

Chapter Two: Experiential Education and Writing in Action
Placement and Purpose of Activities and Experiences
Letter Writing
Double-Entry Journals
Workshop Writing
Concerns and Challenges With Writing Activities
Learning More Than Just Writing

Chapter Three: Practical Activities and Lesson Plans
A Note on Timed and Themed Writing
Themed Writing Prompts
Teambuilding and Collaboration
Lesson Plans
1. Building a Cooperative and Respectful Classroom
2. Developing a Full Value Contract or Group Behavior Code
3. Using the Senses—Identifying Learning Styles
4. Junkyard: Communication, Teamwork or Trust
5. Experiential Double-Entry Journals
6. Understanding the Importance of the Craft of Writing
7. Using Observation to Make Reading and Writing More Accessible
8. Understanding the Writing Process
9. How to Organize an Essay
10. Working on Clarity
11. Word Choice
12. Writing a Thesis, Lesson One
13. Writing a Thesis, Lesson Two
14. Paragraphs and Topic Sentences
15. Using Transitions
16. Conclusions
17. Learning to Write a Research Paper
18. Referencing and Works Cited
19. Critiquing Papers and Giving Feedback: Your Own and Your Peers
20. Developing a Story or Character (for Fiction)
21. Working With Language (for Poetry)
22. Choosing a Story and Integrating Research (for Creative Nonfiction)
23. Crafting a Lede (for Journalism)
24. Finding Voice
Works Cited
Wood 'N' Barnes: | 2309 North Willow, Suite A | Bethany, Oklahoma 73008 | Copyright © 2011, All Rights Reserved