April 19, 2012

Teaching Boys Who Would Rather Build Forts All Day

This weekend I head north to Vancouver to give a presentation to 115 specialists, as part of the

Canadian Academy of Therapeutic Tutors.

They expect me to illuminate them on the latest and greatest in magic tricks for teaching writing. Not that I am anxious, or nervous. (Hah!)

One of my students (age 7) asked how I was going to do a presentation when I didn't know how to speak Canadian.

Since my last BLOG I started a new little contract-y job, with a Foster Care Agency, and they really do that middle word: CARE. Social Workers who use every ounce of their compassionate bloodstream, and their graduate school smarts, to help these kids feel an anchor. Ahem, a small detail, however, is that these kids struggle with reading. So I come in with my virtual Super Woman cape and assess them, even though the school has supposedly done so, only to find that (surprise!) schools aren't doing the best interventions, or dong much at all. So my pen and my sword pursue best interventions, with elaborate write-ups, and grave predictions about their future, and the schools do not exactly call me up to attend any of their parties or potlucks. I will also be doing mini trainings for the foster parents on how to help their kids in a more pointed way than having them read People magazine over and over.

Lately, while not burning data CDs for my Vancouver-ites, lumbering to Pilates class in the rain, writing long e-mails to parents of the kids I tutor, and stressing about whether I am eating enough greens, or worrying about the futures of foster children...I am....
....Listening to Andrew Pudewa (don't ask me to pronounce his name, but I have exchanged many emails with him over the years) talk about Boys and Writing - an audio of one of his presentations, which are for sale on his website. I am too cheap to spend the hundreds on his curriculum, but I have pored over the Institute for Excellence in Writing materials at conferences, heard powerful stories from homeschoolers, and scratched my head about why I haven't seen the curriculum in classrooms, or on special ed. teachers shelves. Here is a 2 minute clip of him, to get a sense of his wisdom.

What a relief to hear that he is promoting the same strategies that I have fallen upon through my own trial and error, with fort-making boys, over the years. He is BIG ON VERBS.

I am making tiny progress with the six boys, ages 10-13, who would rather have dental surgery than write.
  • One has Inspiration, and a new MAC, and that makes his willingness dial move up to "10."
  • Another has new medication, so now he actually uses my 25 pages of writing tools instead of forgetting they are there in his binder, on his desk at home. One of these pages is a reminder about using strong verbs, of course.
  • Yet another has taken on my "Think like a reporter" mantra and asks himself often whether he has the 5 W's and H in his writing for school, or for me.
  • The Step-Up-to-Writing summary equation is what one 5th grader is hanging his hat on, because it gives such clear parameters for the many summaries that I assign, since we also work on finding the Main Idea.

Identify the item. THEN Use a verb and a bit more. THEN Finish your thought.

The article on sharks

describes the reasons

why there are more attacks today

Verbs for summaries:

explains describes gives compares tells

shows lists provides presents demonstrates

And a little humor, or spice, or I am not sure - help me out here!

Why Johnny Can't Write
Video that revisits the Newsweek Cover Story December 8, 1975
If this were a student's paper, I would ask, "Where is your thesis?" It is 7 minutes of garbled reporter speak, and while the essence of the video isn't clear, to me it spoke to how this "alarm" is not new, and we cannot simply blame it on the digital age, or our texting teenagers, but a whole host of things.
If anyone can decipher the "Main Idea", let me know.