The TAKS writing test is just around the bend and our 4th graders are busy, busy, busy with “Writing Camp”. Think Boot Camp for budding writers and you get the picture. The main difference between the Marines and us is that our recruits don’t enlist, they are conscripted.
I took another teacher’s after school tutoring session and after taking one look at the TAKS packet (there is nothing more soul destroying than a TAKS packet) I tossed it aside and opted for “quick writes” instead.
We are blessed with some amazing on-line resources, including United Streaming, which I’ve renamed “The Cyber Blockbuster”. Its forte is streaming video but the site also has a section of teacher tools, including illustrated writing prompts.
I put one up and we started brainstorming. Our students have a tendency to make a long list of traits when they are writing description so I’ve been teaching the concept of “comma, comma, and”. Think 3, as in The 3 Bears, The 3 Pigs or The Holy Trinity. We seem to be inatly programmed to look for patterns of three. Using “comma, comma, and” really does help a passage “flow”.
After 20 minutes we’d came up with a pithy paragraph describing the night flight of an owl. I used a laptop and projector and typed their suggestions in MSWord. The kids found the programs ability to do automatic spelling and grammar checks most intriguing. They have to use paper and pencil so not only do they have to worry about content; they also have to sweat the mechanics. That is a tall order for a 9 year old, especially for one for whom English is not their first language.
They then choose another prompt and we all sat down and started to write. I joined them and all of a sudden, I noticed I could no longer hear their pencils scratching on the paper. I looked up and they were all staring at me - I’d scratched out a sentence. A teacher admitting to a mistake? Unheard off! Aren’t teachers supposed to be perfect?
This teacher isn’t, at least not when it comes to writing!
When we finished one of the kids looked up at me and said “This was fun”.
Ah, there is nothing sweeter to a teachers ear than knowing a lesson hit home!