Friday, August 31, 2012

Modeling Writing

End of the first full week of school: but my learning doesn't stop when my students' starts. Now I'm practicing my reading and reading my students.

One of the big resolutions: modeling writing. So I modeled brainstorming a list of topics for a narrative assignment and possible stories to go with the topics. I did not model the actual writing. (1) Because by that time students were antsy and ready to get on with their own writing. How long can they sit there and watch me write? (2) Because I feel I need to walk around, monitor, answer questions, and provoke concentration by proximity and by words if necessary.

But I did write after class. And that night. And the next morning. On a different topic each time. The first one, as it turned out, didn’t really address the prompt. The second one would not have been interesting to most of my students. But with the third one, I think I nailed it. Wish I could have modeled that process...but it was way to long. Your first, or even second idea is not necessarily your best. Maybe it would be worth sharing with them on Monday. 

I did at least have my own sample of writing to show the students on which I could model some revising: noting where I had and where I could add concrete sensory details, specific actions, and actual thoughts/words of characters (dialogue or internal monologue). Commenting on what was good and what still needed to be done with purpose, opening, and closing. Tinkering with some word choice and modeling my thought process as I did.

Did I execute perfectly? No. But I did it. Did it revolutionize my classroom? No. But there were interesting questions--like about how you can give exact words if you don't remember exactly what someone said. And students were engaged with revising. Besides, nothing really good lives up to its entire potential the first time through, and as a one-time “drive-by” event. 

I’m happy I took a step, and I’m looking forward to getting more skillful at the teaching practice as my students get more skillful at writing.

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