Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Topic Sentence? I'll give you a topic sentence.

Last week, I returned to the Book project at the local elementary school for third session.

We are writing a book about the library at the school. Six of the seven students were there.

I had each student create a story map for their section of the book. In other words, I previously modeled a story map and now the students would try their own. Overall this worked, but I re-learned an important lesson.

I re-learned that with students, you can't take anything for granted. Even with only seven students who are supposed to be the better writers in the class, each student was in a wildly different place when it came to pre-writing.  Mary and John understood quickly and were able to think of ideas right away. Danny, as usual, needed redirection to return to earth (not to be too mean, but the boy is the most creative, wacky thinker I have encountered; fun). Jane needed each step explained and approved, each time.

Since Mary and John finished the story map quickly, I asked them to begin work on a topic sentence. Wow, you'd have thought I asked them to explain Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity. OK, these kids are only six, deep breath. Clearly, I went to too far, too fast. I spend much of the remaining time helping Mary and John get nowhere on topic sentences.

Sally was another case altogether. A little slow to show that she understood, Sally then took off like wild fire. She worked hard and created a very thorough story map.

I also noticed that first graders have great difficulty moving beyond their mistakes without correcting them. If a seventh grader had realized that something on a story map was wrong, you'd be luck if the student would actually erase to fix the error. Mostly, older students would just scribble out the mistake and move on - if they did anything at all. When one of my writing group realized there was an error, she had to erase the entire sentence or phrase and

All told, this was a decent session. The students got lots of pre-writing done and are ready to draft next time we meet.

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