8.05.2010

Turning scribbles into real stories

Teaching writing has never been my strong suit. I guess it has to do with the fact that I never learned the proper way to teach writing. But I can't really remember every learning how to write correctly. I just wrote. Up til a few years ago, my kids writing just sucked. Then, my favorite and best administrator came to the school and changed it all for me. Now I enjoy teaching writing and watching my kids come so far.

My district thinks we live in Utopia and that all kids can just magically write coming into first grade. Well, they are mistaken. Our kinders come to us writing "I like to play" which looks like "i lik to pla" if we're lucky! Not good when we have to get them to write a personal narrative containing about 5 sentences! Those living in Utopia say we are to use Step Up to Writing. It's a decent program, but not when school starts. This orogram starts off with the idea that students can write a sentence and lead into paragraphs. But we aren't even at the sentence stage! Welcome Framing Your Thoughts!

When the admin. came to my school a few years ago, I was just starting to each my D-1class. They were very low and couldn't write words, much less a sentence. She came in and showed me, and them, how to start writing simple, barebones sentences. It amde so much sense. 3 little words is all you need to start writing. And I use it to this day with my first graders.

We begin by talking about the fact that a sentence needs a capital and punctuation. "Every sentence starts with a capital and ends with punctuation." We say this a billion times in the first month of school and about 2 billion times more throughout the year. There's a hand movement to go withit, but I don't know how to explain it, sorry! Then, we start talking about the subject and predicate. Honestly, I never knew what those were til I started this. I guess I had crappy teachers for English and writing! We make a list for all the subject words. I use noun and subject both, as they go together well. 2 birds, one stone here, people! Then we make a list of the predicate words. I use predicate, action and verb together. Then we start orally putting sentences together, with me writing them on the board and underlining the subject and makin glittle mountains (^^^^) under the predicate. We do this forever! The kids will write their own 3 word barebone sentences for about 2 months until they really get it. Then we move on!

The little ^^^^ stand for describing the verb. We don't do all the little mountains in first grade but we do some. We start with adding in the "where". After the kids are good at writing their barebones sentence, we start putting in where it was happening. We go from "The cat eats." to "The cat eats in the house." Makes the sentences a bit more exciting, plus we get to talk about prepositions. We do this for about a month or so until they really get it. Then we add the "when". This get a tricky as we put it at the beginning. So "The cat eats in the house" can change to "In the morning, the cat eats in the house." While this doesn't seem all that exciting, especially when you read a million sentences about the cat eating and the dog running and jumping and the fish swimming, it's a huge step for the little guys! From here, we can start writing a short story.

We'll take "In the morning, the cat eats in the house." and make it "In the morning, the cat eats in the house. It eats cat food from a can." Again, it's not going to win any major awards, but it's a start. After we get good at that, we start by writing our opening sentence, the "First...", "Next...", "Then..." and "Finally...". Eventually, the kids move from writing about animals to writing about themselves. Normally by March, they are putting detailed sentences in with their writing and the really good writers are writing about an 8 to 10 sentence story. It follows the Step Up to Writing like we are supposed to use, but it lets them work at their own pace. There are some kids who will still be writing a barebones sentence in January, but...

I will post some writing in the coming week to show you what I have them do. It's taken me about 6 years to feel comfortable doing it and I think I got it. But, thisis only really good for teaching them how to write a narrative. I still suck on others!

As for handwriting, I don't teach handwriting much to the dismay of the 2nd grade teachers! Up untiol I taught D-1, I was very focused on neat handwriting. But, when I got my D-1 kids, their handwriting was awful. And the more I pushed them to write neatly, the less work I got out of them. When I gave it up, I would get tons of writing out of them. I decided that quantity and having it done correctly was better for me and my kids than having it look nice, but either not be right or just plain suck. I realized the kids who can write neatly will and those who can't may never be able to. By middle school, they can use computers! So, the second grade teachers can make nasty comments about me and my kids writing, but at least they produce! It's more than I can say for some others who make their kids do it uber neat!

1 comment:

  1. You are absolutely right with your thoughts about writing. It is a skill that builds constructively, and you cannot hurry it wihtout causing significant damage to the whole process. While writing anything where the content is important (narratives, facts, anything), the focus MUST be in content, not in handwriting style or minor spelling / grammar mistakes...or neatness.

    You have a nice blog and good thoughts!

    Nina (http://www.ninacsmith.com)

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