This looks like a lot of reading and I’m pressed for time. Why do I want to buy this and make this a big part of the writing portion of my class?
- You want it because you want to dramatically cut down on how many papers you grade.
- You want it because you want your kids to write more and edit better - including peer editing.
- You want it because you want to include cursive writing as a part of your curriculum. Yes. Cursive!
- You want the cursive aspect to be a part of every assignment and see the kids get better at it all the time - and have MOST of them like doing it!
- You want your kids to complete sentences on a higher level and that means knowing conjunctions and punctuation forwards and backwards.
- You want all of this to have an element of fun and interest for your kids.
If this grabs you - including the cursive aspect - read on. If not, I hope life is good in your neck of the woods, and your legislators think that teachers are noble people who deserve to be well compensated for their efforts and sacrifices.
What is the bottom line of what this package offers you? It’s pretty simple. We need a new approach to teaching writing. The hope of improving writing quality based on large-scale papers simply isn't realistic with all of the testing and reading comprehension demands that have been placed upon us. The solution is to use numerous, smaller, simpler assignments with HIGH rigor. The problem is that too many teachers feel that this isn't sufficient to make an impact on writing quality, proofreading and style. This opposition stems from our assumption that short assignments, while being considerably easier to grade, are ineffective when it comes to creating marked improvement in the students’ cognitive, creative and compositional abilities.
This is an age-old problem. You want to upgrade the quality of your students’ writing, but you’ve been around long enough to know that that objective requires three things that don’t have enough time for, including:
- repetition on the students’ part so that writing and proofreading skills are ingrained in them and not forgotten from assignment to assignment
- juggling the rest of your curriculum to allow for regular reinforcement of writing skills is great, but understanding that to do so means that other priorities will have to be taken off the table or limited in scope
- knowing that the status quo of reading lengthier papers acknowledges that you will be spending considerably more time grading papers and having considerably less time having a personal life
What makes all of this so frustrating is that you – as with virtually every other English / language arts teacher in the country - approach this goal every year with the best of intentions, but the crushing realities of modern education nearly always prevent your most earnest efforts. Worse still is the fact that we often carry a sense of guilt over this burden as if somehow we were failing the gods of education, because we were unwilling to give up large quantities of our personal time grading lengthy assignments in order to achieve objectives that we never had a chance to complete in the first place (Wow. That was a little long-winded. I’m sorry. I get a little verbose when I’m on a rant.)!
We’re trained to think that only longer exercises will test our students’ grammatical and stylistic proficiency or that constant editing sessions will make them devote greater attention to their mistakes and pay greater heed to an improvement in their voice. It is the notion that bigger is better and that specific, smaller exercises are inadequate to the task. This perception is one that I simply don’t hold with anymore. To my mind we need a different approach that provides repetition and advancement of skills without the need for more major papers.
What I’m offering are exercises that are designed to provide you with an alternative means to achieve the objectives of higher level writing, improved attention to grammatical errors and more willingness from students to express themselves.
First, let me say that I’m not suggesting that more difficult writing projects are unnecessary. In fact, I’m not promoting anything of the kind. What I am offering is the idea that they should be reduced and situated towards the end of your curriculum and replaced with a series of shorter, consistent exercises. The assignments that I am offering you are designed to incorporate a myriad number of skill sets that can be reinforced in a manner that will actually stay with the students and not be shrugged off and re-taught from scratch the following year.
What I giving you are twenty writing exercises that focus on the most important aspect of writing - well constructed sentences. My approach is to take your students back to the basics and teach them the fundamentals of sentence construction. The approach relies on:
- a good vocabulary program
- a strong grasp of conjunctions and how to employ them
- the importance of knowing all forms of punctuation
- the need to provide students with thoughtful prompts that will motivate them to give you a more inspired effort
- including cursive writing skills, because darn it, those are skills that educated students possess!
The unit begins by instructing your students in the four main types of conjunctions so that they understand how to construct complex thoughtful responses without turning them into run-on sentences. It concludes with the use of parenthesis and dash and provides them with a simple structure for how to make use of them.
After that, each type of conjunction gets its own assignment (as well as dash and parenthesis) to make their usage clear for future tasks. NOTE: These are the first six assignments and are completed by each student alone. After that, everything is done in pairs and cuts your workload in half. When these are completed, your students will move on to the main assignments which call for them to use all four types of conjunctions to answer questions based upon a common theme.
If you like this approach and it does for you what it has done for me, write me and I’ll send you the paragraph writing exercises which are based on this program. This you can have for free. If you are impressed with the quality of the work, please take a look at my public speaking and reading program, as well as my short story testing products. I hope this writing approach does for your class what it has done for mine.
Advanced Language Arts
Trask Middle School