Teaching and Writing from the World

23 Jun

Teaching writing craft can be challenging for a lot of reasons.

  • we need to know what craft will make a difference in children’s writing
  • we need to find accessible mentors that they can learn from
  • we need students to practice it, repeatedly, in context, and in multiple form

Luckily, we don’t need to reinvent the wheel all by ourselves, some great teachers have led the way.  Jeff Anderson has published several texts to help with crafting sentences, and Everyday Editing includes loads of examples from books that students can mentor off of.

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Maggie and Kate Roberts, staff developers at TCRWP,  just posted thoughts about how to help kids use the world around them to be inspired to write or read more.  And of course, there are the zillions of sites devoted to spelling and punctuation mishaps in the world.  These “errors in real life” are not only fun for kids to analyze and edit, but really emphasize the need for editing in all contexts…nothing like a 500 dollar sign with “there” spelled “their” to prove that point.  I experienced this first hand last year, on my first anniversary.  I had spent days constructing a memory book about all the things I loved about my husband, and I was quite pleased with my creativity.  Until the book arrived, and I realized I had forgotten to proof read the title.

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I didn’t notice the verb change when I switched the subhead from “Dan” to “you.”  Sigh.  Lesson learned.

Fun as it is to collect and correct errors found in the world, we can also collect craft examples.  Wandering down Haight street in SF, I saw this great example.  I could use it to teach starting sentences with verbs, starting with “and”, using a repeated phrase, or using short sentences followed by a longer line for emphasis.  Of course, it’s not entirely kid-friendly so I’d probably have to modify it a bit…

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Sometimes these short snippets of text we see around us are actually easier to teach from than larger chunks we have to modify down to digestible bits.

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