Ah the writing teachers dilemma!

Slice of Life

March 20, 2012

Today is the day I chose to get caught up on my students writing.  The first week or so of the SOL I read their Slices daily.  Then life took over and I just could not keep up with all the lesson plans, the correcting and reading 29 Slices everyday.  So I check in on a few every so often but tonight was the night to be sure I had recorded who was writing daily and read through their work.

It was an amazing adventure into a little corner of their life.  They are indeed writing little slices of their life.   I am not sure why I find that so amazing but I do.  These fourth graders have told me about BBQ’s, basketball games, the house fire, the father who was shot, the father who died in a car accident when the student was 5,  the classroom drama about who likes who, the specialist teachers they like or not,  when they have gotten in trouble in media for chewing gum, the story of a backpack,  the lectures from me that they hate but realize I was right and on it goes.  The great moments in the life of a fourth grader.  Amazing!!! and Wonderful!!!  They are writing and they are indeed writers.

I began this project with them to get words on paper. Lots of words on paper.    Words that we could then begin to edit, strengthen and create into more polished pieces.   The problem now is that these short works feel to me like personal journal entries – which they are.  I don’t like the idea of editing and polishing a personal journal.  To me the personal journal is the place that is free and safe from the details of editing.  A place we just write freely to express our thoughts and feelings.

What do I do?  There are great ideas here – a 4 out of 5 on my writing rubric but everything goes down hill from there. ( sentence structure, rich words, conventions, etc)  Do I ask them to choose a day to develop?  Do we step into their personal journal to learn to revise and edit?   Of do I leave this untouched.   I can always set up some writing prompts and we can revise and edit those.  ( Although I know they will not have the energy that these short pieces written from the heart have.)

Ah the writing teachers dilemma!    Advice friends???


About Joanne Toft

I am a retired Minneapolis Public School teacher. I walk, garden, help in schools and write. Life is good!
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4 Responses to Ah the writing teachers dilemma!

  1. mrssurridge says:

    What exciting news! It’s so fun to have a class full of writers! I have also done the challenge with my class this year and have somehow been able to keep up, but it hasn’t been easy. I have third graders so rather than edit each one I picked a few that didn’t need many upgrades and pulled the students aside quietly to ask if we could edit their pieces as a class. I just whispered that I loved what they had done, I had seen a couple places they could have revised or edited and then I asked if I could put their piece on the screen (board) to both show what a great slice was and to use as an example for an editing lesson. I rarely have gotten a no answer. When they give me a yes answer, I ask them to read it out loud while it is up on the screen and then I ask them to have the first stab at editing. Then we ask for other suggestions. We end with a roaring applause and a big thank you for allowing us to use their work to improve our own writing. They love playing the teacher and always go back to their work and improve it. I also give some time for everyone else to look through what they did that day or the day before and see if they could make an improvement. It seems to work in my class. Good luck in finding a way to work for your class!

    • Thanks for the wonderful way to scaffold this learning for students. It sets up the writers process as well – the working with other writer to improve ones work. I love it. Thanks so much!

  2. Shawn Bailey says:

    I remember the first time I edited my daughter’s journal. She got a 73 on her first version. I made her read Strunk and White’s ‘The Elements of Style’ to me aloud in one sitting. Then we began revisions. And it’s true, sleep deprivation really does help with creativity. 78 hours later we had a journal worthy of Mitch Albom. I think she finally understands the importance of structuring your inner soul if you’re going to share it with an audience.

  3. Stacey says:

    Hmmmm… I think you should have them pick one to develop into something more at the end of the month. Then, you can celebrate their writing like that (and grade that piece if you wish). I didn’t grade my students’ slices when I led this challenge in my fourth grade classroom. I can’t tell you what you should do, but if it were me, I wouldn’t grade each and every slice.

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