Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Helping Struggling Writers

One of my teachers works with students who need extra practice with their writing skills. She was looking for a way to expand their knowledge base so that they would have more people to write examples of in their essays. We know, as teachers, that students use the same examples over and over again. If you ask them to write about someone who has overcome adversity or shown courage, you get Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks and Michael Jordan. Nothing wrong with those stories, but the repetition is enough to have readers weeping with monotony. Our goal was to showcase others they may or may not know about and get them thinking beyond the elementary examples they've clung to for so many years.

We will be reading several books and making connections in a variety of ways....the first two books were 14 Cows for America by Carmen Agra Deedy and Jack's Path of Courage: The Life of John F. Kennedy by Doreen Rappaport.

Both of these books have beautifully illustrated pages and rich content throughout the stories. We discussed author's purpose and main idea after reading each story and then had the students explain how they could use the readings in their persuasive writings.  This wasn't easy. The students tend to be vague in their explanations and the teacher and I had to constantly remind the students to answer "why" or "how" or "give details about that situation". We used a Padlet to allow the kids to read each others ideas and allow the teacher to interact with their statements.

I think the thing the students enjoyed most was allowing them to sit in the "soft seating" at the front of the library while we worked. It was interesting to hear which book the students preferred and why. Some really liked the story from Kenya and others wanted more information about JFK when we were finished. It was a productive experience. The teacher has them filling out a chart back in the room so they can revisit the stories and remember what we've read before they take their next writing exam.

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