My experiences as a creative person, tutor of children, and teacher of creative writing

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Simplified Program

This last year I tried an even more simplified writing program which worked out well. Here is what I did:

1. After a quick review of the writing process, I have the whole class begin writing. (They always have ideas on things to write about in the back of their spiral writing notebook.)
I walk around the class giving any needed help and just making sure the kids are getting started.

2.After about 15 minutes I go back and sit at a half circle table. I announce that anyone who has published writing they want to read can come to the table now. I have the person who is reading their writing sit next to me on my left side where I can read over their shoulder. (This allows me to give immediate feedback) Others who want to read sit in order of arrival (left to right) around the table. I consider six other students max for the table and it makes a good group. When the far right chair is empty, then another person can come and take that place. (Standing around the table waiting is not allowed.)

3. After they read their writing, I point out some good things about their work and suggest some things they can do to improve their writing (just a couple of things at that child's writing level). They then move to the chair on the right side of me where they make their changes. (Keeping them close to me helps them get it done. I used to send them back to their seat, but they didn't make the changes and so their writing didn't improve much. This approach allows fast feedback and enables rapid writing improvement. Kids hate to come back to cold writing days later. )

4. When they are done improving their work, they show me and can receive a sticker. That student then returns to their seat and begins working on more writing. 

To have an entire class of about thirty students draft, revise, edit, and publish their work takes about two hours.

I only take them through the entire writing process once a week, but they have time to write each day.

The children need to experience the reason we write which is to communicate our thoughts and experiences. Allowing them to share their writing with me and other students encourages them to keep writing and makes it more fun for them.

Two hours may seem like a long time for third grade students to write. It is. I do it this way to meet the needs of three basic groups of students.

1. The Creative Fireballs
These students love to write and get so involved in writing that they beg for more time. Two hours gives them plenty of time. If they have published something and are getting tired, then I allow them to read for the rest of the time.

2. The Unfocused Creative
There are some students who need lots of time to get into writing. They are very creative, but have trouble getting started, organizing, finding their writing notebook etc. They just need lots of time and can't be rushed. I found that they were just getting started when the normal writing 20 minutes or hour was over. They were never getting anything completed and never experienced the fun of writing. They were missing the satisfaction of sharing their work with others. In two hours they finally got something published.

3. The Struggling Writer
After getting the Fireballs and Unfocused going, I'm able to have the time to concentrate on the Strugglers. These students have trouble understanding what makes a sentence, with handwriting, spelling, and organization. Often they need me to personally sit beside them and give them guidance and encouragement. It also helps for them to know that if they don't write during class time, then they will have to write during recess time which just so happens to be in the middle of the writing time. This usually gets the "action guys" going on writing. I found that these students would just try and wait out writing time. I understand that writing is hard for them, but as they keep doing it, it becomes easier, and they start to gain confidence in themselves. These students were never getting anything completed and conveniently lost all work by the next writing session. They always complained that they just didn't have enough time. With two hours they have the time, and I have enough time to make sure they write.  I make certain that these students get something published before I give more attention to the other students.

I try to have all the students be as independent as possible.
They are allowed to partner edit and share with each other (if they have many long writings- some have pages and pages) after they have earned their EDITOR badge. A short presentation is made before the entire class when they earn EDITOR. They get a paper label to put on their desk. They earn this by showing me that they can apply basic editing to their writing (capitals, punctuation, paragraphs, complete but not run on sentences, good organization, one topic, and dialog writing done correctly) By the end of the year, there is a class full of proud EDITORS who enjoy writing.