November 1, 2010


So..... I come upon another study about the value of one-on-one instruction, in a blog by a local neuropsychologist couple

Eide Neurolearning Blog

The Eides create this blog for parents and practitioners, and I admire them for their Harvard-based intellect and therapeutic compassion.  They assess and work with kids like those that I work with, and we all advocate for kids - pressing schools to customize themselves enough for the nuances that come with the territory.
I have met them at conferences and for coffee, and they are humble yet geeky, quirky, yet cheeky.  Kinda like me.

So this week I hit a wall with my gifted 4th grader who is absolutely struggling to write book summaries.

Okay, I am supposed to insert a cute graphic or another link, if i am to follow blog protocol, but I am going to rebel against the blog experts.

Actually, I have 5 gifted 4th or 5th graders, all of whom are in gifted schools, and can read above their grade level, but writing is a much tougher task. Either they get rambl-y, or they insist on including certain details that are just not important, but to them they are, and they are so cool!  For example, they write about a minor character's tics, pets, hairstyle, or ways of eating, instead of a main character's motive and efforts to tackle the problem.  Well, would that be like a sports writer perseverating on Brett Favre's sexting, instead of the highlighted plays of the game? Journalism is not the model it used to be.

So back to the pattern of the gifted: they have some creative inserts into their stories, or summaries, but they either don't help tie it all together, or, in summaries (of novels), they add some fascinating little tidbits, but those don't help explain the flow of the plot. In summaries of non-fiction, they leave out essentials of the main idea.

My working theory is that just because they can read and comprehend books above their grade level. that doesn't mean they can write clearly and concisely about them in summary form!

But i am to help them at times with school assignments, and get them steered in the right direction, or give them more exact feedback than their teacher has time for, so here I was, with a book summary of The Westing Game, which is a complex 5th grade Newbery award winner, and he had typed it up into a 3rd draft. It was still convoluted and full of unnecessary details.

His dad emailed it to me the night before and I had to meditate on what to do with him, without overwhelming the kid with "fixes."  Finally it hit me, at the gym, on the cardio machine. I printed it out sentence by sentence, in landscape format, so the sentences would truly look like a list.

Then we went through each sentence, with these three things in mind (i had written these down for him).  Is this important to the story?  Are there how phrases, or why phrases?  (something we have worked on a lot). Do the verbs say clearly what happened?

This reduced overwhelm, and helped him think of one idea at a time, PLUS he could easily move some of the sentences around, like numbering a "to do" list.  Voila.

Okay, signing off for now. Happy November chill.

No comments:

Post a Comment