"Sentence to sentence progression is not smooth and controlled...And students have to thread sentences together, each sentence to the next, in order to build depth."
TEA sure does know how to place a tall order!
Let's help students achieve quality writing by starting in the shallows and then digging deep into their experiences.
Many teachers begin their year with "I Am From" style activities. A poem is a lovely starting place because it is easy and it naturally lends itself to deeper thinking. An "I Am From" poem utilizes the same sentence stem for each line (or lines). Here's a snippet of my poetry below.
Using the "I Am From" poem (even if it's not the beginning of the year), you can instruct students to pull out recurring ideas or themes that "live" in their writing. Hashtags can help students narrow it down. Here are my hashtag ideas from my poetry.
Now the trick is to get students to think of a metaphor to explain a hashtag. This will take lots of modeling, but the payoff can be so good. For example, if I think about what it was like being different and growing up, I think about a pair of glasses. (Incidentally, I had horribly thick glasses and was always picked on.)
Be patient and allow your kids time to find a good metaphor or symbol that really drives their point home. You can help students by thinking about their setting...do students have a connection to city-life, to mountains, to the ocean? You can help them by thinking about their childhood...do they have a connection to a certain toy, a piece of clothing, a book? Now instruct students to fill a page with as many words as they can related to their metaphor or symbol. Here are some of my words:
With these words, students can now write and share their stories with significance, weight, an interesting vocabulary, and cohesion. The writing would lend itself well to a narrative, but it would also work for a 26-line expository or persuasive essay if students are using personal experience as the basis for their essay. I could absolutely use these words in an interesting way to express my own ideas about being different.
This is a very different approach to writing. It is one that rewards patience and risk. But think of it in chunks and use what works for you:
- I Am From poetry
- Hashtag List
- Finding a metaphor or symbol
- Generating a word list
I'd love to hear your thoughts!
Good writing starts in the shallows. We have to get students to write at the shallow level before we can get them to write deeply. (Gayla Wiggins, Lead4ward)
Writing that matters stems from a writer's experiences...their controlling ideas...the times, places, and origins that have shaped us. (Ann David, PhD, UIW and Katrina Jansky, MA, UT Austin)