Caroline in the Delta

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Sep 18 2012

On Teaching Writing

I contacted 22 parents today. Only one report was negative.

It’s week 5, and I’m wondering about my planning. If I’m doing anything remotely productive. I feel this year I’m doing the exact opposite of my first year.

First year: completely rely on content, break things down into bricks and stack them up. Missing brick? Keep going. Holes in wall get bigger and bigger. No critical thinking, social skills, or management in my room. Anywhere.

This year: Only learn four parts of speech for two or three weeks. Finish the first unit, just on paragraphs, at the end of week 5. Put a huge emphasis on thoroughly explaining why answers are right and why we need to do this and on quantity of “authentic” writing for homework. Leave structure and grammar vague.

What I’m very much missing:

I need to figure out a way to quicken the pace of grammar instruction) or include it at all, honestly. My students are pretty awesome memorizors. They spit out definitions to parts of speech like nobody’s business. But ask them which word in a sentence is a noun and they stare at you and guess within .0005 seconds. Rarely do they pause, consider, find, and articulate.

I’ve got a huge gap going on between the two ways I’ve been asking my students to write. In homework, they’re filling a full page nightly. By any means. Some are stretching their handwriting further and further, some are writing two full pages a night for fun, some are complete nonsense. In classwork, we are so structured it’s robotic and almost unbearable. We’re only in the middle of one prompt that’s about, surprise, parts of speech. Their sentences are second grade level and the structure is entirely based on Step Up to Writing.

I don’t think either of these are bad in isolation for a short time, but I worry that they will remain in isolation for the entire school year as I try to harness the beauty of their structure-less gems that peek from chaos in their notebooks, and try to invigorate their boring textbook too-structured paragraphs we do in class.

I recognize this is sixth grade, and most academic writing in sixth grade is fairly formulaic, but when I look at exemplars I’m just not sure how to bring these things together.

No Responses Yet

    Post a comment