November 19, 2010

Jumping Through Hoops

Some of my kids think of writing as just jumping through hoops, with no passion for how writing can elicit thoughts and feelings you did not know you had, until the pen moved, and no thrill for the magic of words, or even the opportunity to express their opinion. (Jumping through hoops is how I approach drudgery tasks like online applications, or taking the garbage and recycling bins up to the top of our steep and long driveway.  Not much passion). 

So I have to be careful when I say things like "use 3 supporting details" because I risk they will see that as just another hoop, instead of a guideline to prevent rambly writing, or dimly supported topic sentences.

I read over 100 postings on several teacher forums this week, about teaching writing.  The gist of the discussions was:
  • Kids need a lot of variety of forms to practice writing
  • It takes an inordinate amount of time and organization to teach writing
  • The good teachers read papers and journals all night and all weekend
 I searched for what to do with the kids who aren't keeping up, yet the answer to the nit picky, struggling writer questions was basically just to have them write more, and more often.  Well, haven't we been there; done that. Funny how our kids don't say, "Oh thanks ________ (insert significant adult's name here)!  I am going to sit over there right now and write up a storm!"  Telling these guys to just write more can be like telling a dieter to just go to the gym more. It's another hoop to resist jumping through! 

Microscopic assignments,  a sentence a day, a comic a day, a line of a song.  Tiny pieces of writing to keep that part of the brain alive.  Word Games. Written notes to said parents or guardians convincing them to let them go ________ or do __________.  I know a parent who is currently holding her ground on letting her 12-year old son get a cell phone, UNLESS he writes a persuasive letter that convinces her otherwise.  I saw his first attempt and it was meek and unconvincing.  "Take 2".  He is attempting a second draft.

A healthy hoop to jump through.

Healthy Thanksgiving Wishes,


1 comment:

  1. I don't think kids mind jumping through hoops as long as the hoops are relevant to their lives and will get them to step two rather than in the middle of nowhere. Working on writing just to work on writing is not very inspiring. Your example about the kid who writes a letter to keep his cell phone has huge relevance and demonstrates writing with purpose. Writing is hard for anyone who is forced to write on a subject which does not interest them. Interesting subjects are helpful but the selling point is that it will result in an outcome that may benefit the student. It would be nice to incorporate writing letters for purpose when possible. This would be negotiating for something or writing to representatives about a passionate issue, or writing to a company about a great produce or perhaps a not so great product or service and why.. the list continues.