Writing Strategies Implemented

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For this assignment, I worked with Joy, a 14-year old eighth grader, and family friend.  During our meetings, I implemented several different writing strategies and techniques, with at least two opportunities to experience each technique.


5-Minute Quick Writes

Adhering to the philosophy that writers have to write….something, I gave Joy two opportunities to do 5-minute quick writes with the instructions that she could write anything she wanted, as long as she wrote for the entire five minutes.  One day she wrote about missing her mom during a recent business trip.  On another day, she wrote about her dog, which just had puppies.  Joy states that she had experience with 5-minute quick writes, but when she explained what she wrote about, it was usually planning for an assigned essay.  She apparently didn’t have many opportunities to write about whatever she wanted during classes.  I talked to Joy about the content of the piece, but didn’t point out spelling or grammar errors.  I think this might have shut her down if I had done that right off the bat.

Feedback to the instructor

I explained to Joy that in a community of writers, all writers not only give feedback, but receive it as well.  I thought giving me feedback would help her be less self-conscious about sharing her own work.  I shared two of my pieces in progress (from the writing class) for Joy to read and asked her for her feedback and suggestions.  The first time, I got a lot of positive feedback and had to encourage her to make suggestions. During the second review of my work, Joy made comments, gave positive feedback, and gave really meaningful suggestions for ways to improve the piece.  It turns out that she had never been asked to give feedback to a teacher/instructor before.  She was quite good.

Read Like A Writer

I read a passage with Joy as we worked on setting a scene, creating a picture with words, and capturing a “snapshot moment”.  We looked at various ways the author used words to create a scene and capture a feeling.  I asked Joy to read a one page passage from a novel, picking out words and phrases that she thought were effective in creating a scene.  She picked out interesting phrases including “her eyes hardened” (one of my favorites).  She understood how the author turned phrases and chose words to convey a specific meaning and tone.  The question remained – would she be able to do this in her own writing?

Writing Descriptive Passages

I encouraged Joy to do a 10 minute write, focusing on descriptive language.  For one assignment, she decided to expand on her quick write about her mother.  She wrote a poem (which she gave to her mom).  The poetic language was surprisingly advanced for an eighth grader.  For her second descriptive writing passage, I asked her to write about a vivid dream, being as descriptive as possible so that her readers could see what she saw and feel what she felt.  At first, she interpreted “dream” as life goals and visions.  I redirected her, and as an example, I shared a recent version of a recurring dream in which several tigers invaded my home and cornered me. Joy took this and ran with it, writing a story about three tigers who terrorized little children and one tiger with a good heart that wanted to make amends and basically improve public relations/public perceptions of tigers.  It was quite a good story.  I asked if she used my story as a starting point and she said yes.  I gave her the feedback that as I read, I could see the story unfolding in my imagination and I thought it would make a really good children’s book.  If we had more time and additional sessions, I would ask Joy to expand and edit this story (which she might do on her own).  However, this was our last session.

This entry was posted on December 2, 2012. 3 Comments

What’s Working In Writing Instruction

writer's hand

I interviewed Cozette, a friend with a Master’s degree in Education, a background in developing educational enrichment programs for student athletes, and more recently a parent who homeschools her 16-year old daughter and two teenage nephews.

We discussed what she has found to be effective in teaching writing skills, especially to her homeschooled students.  Some of her responses were so similar to the information provided by Kittle that I began to wonder whether she had read the book or whether everyone else was privy to knowledge I’d somehow missed.

She states that she finds avid readers make better writers.  She is especially fond of encouraging students to read the classics, even from a young age.  She thinks that the the writing from earlier periods is much more complex than current literature written for children and teens.

Cozette also implements silent, sustained reading time (SSR), though she was unaware of the technical name for this activity.  Her students have a block of time daily when they read books of their choice.  After finishing a book, the students may do standard book reports or simply engage in discussion regarding aspects of the work such as character development, challenging situations, comparing and contrasting to other works.

She finds it helpful to expose her students to vocabulary before their assigned reading begins.

She states that her daughter has emerged as a very strong creative writer, with a special gift for poetry.  However, her daughter dislikes academic writing intensely, especially reports and essays.  This preference is reflected in the quality of her academic writing, which must be revised multiple times.

Cozette finds that an easy way to give feedback on her students’ writing is to reference a short grammar booklet with numbered grammar rules.  When a rule has been broken, she simply writes the number on the passage in question.  It then becomes the student’s responsibility to review the rule, figure out the error or oversight and make the necessary corrections. If the student isn’t able to do this on their own, Cozette knows that reteaching might be necessary.  (I liked this technique so much that I’ll try to find a copy of the booklet and use it as a teaching resource).

Lastly, when students meet together for their weekly group classes with an instructor, they might pass a writing sample around and collect feedback from 10 other students.  This seemed to be a very effective informal assessment


http://edte.ch/blog/2010/09/25/10-ideas-for-class-blog-posts/  45 ideas for Class Blogs.  This site lists at least 45 ways to utilize your class blog as a tool for student learning.  The ideas are so creative that they really got my creativity flowing and I would love to incorporate some of these ideas if I were to ever really write a blog.

http://www.ohiorc.org/writing612/instructional.aspx?subject=13&gradeBand=3&page=1    Excellent instructional ideas for creative lesson plans in writing.  I could see implementing variations of at least 5 of these 11 lessons in a writing class for high school students or adults. Examples include writing work history and resumes for fictional characters (idea expansion – students could also write or respond to want ads and write cover letters), analyzing restaurant reviews and writing a review of a favorite local restaurant, or students cover a local event from various perspectives.

http://www.ncsall.net/index.php@id=164.html  National Center for the Study of Adult Learning and Literacy.   Each issue of the “Focus on Basics” publication addresses the specific learning needs of specific populations of adult learners, for example English for Speakers of Other Languages, adults in the corrections setting, adults in the workplace, and adults with learning disabilities.  Not only are there suggestions for teaching approaches and activities, but also academic research as well as articles that provide perspectives from educators’ and learners’ points of view, which would be helpful as I approach teaching non-traditional young adult and adult students.

http://lessons.englishgrammar101.com/EnglishGrammar101/Foreword.aspx  English Grammar 101 is a self-paced learning/review program that offers free online lessons for learners to acquire or review basic skills, test their knowledge, and get immediate scores and feedback.  I could see using this resource for independent skill building, especially for adults with different levels of background skills/knowledge.

http://www.drgrammar.org/frequently-asked-questions   DrGrammar.org answers all the grammar questions that you forgot (or never knew in the first place). You can even search for specific topics.   This is a great resource to prepare for classes or to handle those student questions you just don’t know how to answer.  Also, there are several other categories, including Word Origins (which is always of personal interest to me).

This entry was posted on November 11, 2012. 2 Comments

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This entry was posted on November 11, 2012. 1 Comment