Saturday, September 26, 2009

Teaching writing

One of my goals for both of my school age children is that they would be able to write well. In my mind that encompasses proper spelling, punctuation, grammar, and a level of comfort with putting words on paper. My oldest daughter (third grade) has no problem putting words onto a page. She has a lot to say! We are focusing on spelling, punctuation, grammar, and structure of paragraphs. My first grader struggles to get ideas written down. I am starting to step away more as she works on short writing assignments. I don't want her to focus on correcting errors; she needs to get something on the blank page. We will be able to work on the details once that has happened.

For my first grader I have found lapbooks to be quite helpful. Rather than a large empty page, she starts with a small space. She also has specific instructions about what should go in that space. For example, what types of weapons did the vikings use? Two to three sections of her lap book at a time seems to work well. Beyond that the frustration level becomes so high that we are no longer productive. I am starting to walk away after I explain what she is supposed to write about. She usually tells me that she can't do it. I encourage her to try. We might go back and forth on that a few times, but eventually she will get something written down.

My third grader is more comfortable writing. I am spending more time focusing on the writing process. Here is what that looks like for us (all of these ideas are pulled from Tapestry of Grace curriculum):

Day 1: I give her a specific topic to write about (this week: in the middle ages how did a boy become a knight?); she completes a brainstorming sheet (this week: a ladder diagram); after she is done with school I look over this sheet to see if she understands the assignment

Day 2: brainstorming sheet looks great: I review the parts of/rules for paragraphs and ask her to write the paragraph ; brainstorming sheet has errors: we review the sheet together, if necessary she starts over, usually she is able to make corrections to the sheet she has already started

Day 3: self -proofing - - before I read her paragraph she looks over and and makes corrections. She is checking for - indented, topic sentence, each sentence supports the topic sentence, conclusion, each sentence begins with a capital letter and ends with a punctuation mark. I read the paragraph, mark any spots that need to be corrected and she makes those changes.

I remind both girls often that it takes at least 10 years to learn to write. I do not expect them to know how to write yet; I expect them to give their best effort to learning how to write.

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