Tuesday, July 3, 2012

teaching formulaic writing.

I will never forget how difficult it was to teach an essay during my first student teaching placement in an eighth grade ELA classroom. It was like pulling teeth to get those kids to put pen to paper and write. At the end of each of the three days it took to get through the process, I asked myself, are you SURE you want to be a teacher? Yes, it was that bad. It was my first time ever teaching writing, I was super discouraged, and drank A LOT of wine after grading those essays. Since then, I am constantly on the look out for any books that can help me teach writing. I have found a lot of useful strategies in Kimberly Hill Campbell and Kristi Latimer's Beyond the Five-Paragraph Essay, so I thought I'd share a few with you all. You're welcome.

Firstly, I really like the idea of requiring students to reflect on the writing process after certain assignments. The idea in the book is to assign this after a conclusion-free writing assignment is due. Another strategy includes crafting a thesis and defending it verbally, oh my god. Most of my eighth graders could not grasp the concept of a thesis. If I would have made each of them argue theirs verbally, I know they would have understood it after a little back and forth with another student. Light bulb.

Part of the problem with the writing assignment that I gave during my student teaching was that it had to be so damn structured. I hate that. I don't want my students to constantly see writing as rules, rules, rules, or as a test to pass, I want them to see writing about literature as a way to capture their thinking about literature. Stole that from the book. A lot of the ideas in this book are ones I have heard before, or have developed versions of in my own mind. The strategies are what makes it worth the cash, there are dozens, and the whole Reading like a Writer chapter is filled with useful ideas on helping students developing responses (to write down) as they read. I see new teachers (like me) getting the most out of Beyond the Five-Paragraph Essay.

I don't want you all thinking that I had a bad student teaching experience. I actually loved it. And it helped me know for certain that I was on the right career path. I taught my kids a lot of really important things in those seven weeks, you know, to prepare them for life.

Roughly 70% of them got question number three correct, and then we jammed out.

No comments: