Sunday, October 04, 2009

Where to begin?

This weekend was Narrative Essay Scoring Weekend. I hated it. My ninth graders worked on these essays five times in class over the course of four weeks. The project was in conjunction with a short story unit. We focused mainly on showing not telling, and most students did a decent job at that. But after reading their final drafts (which will not be final), I am not sure where to begin writing instruction. Take a look.

From the Honors class: (as written)

  1. I tried to make a sand castle but the soft sand wouldn't stay in position where as I tried using hard sand the castle wouldn't eventually topple to peices. Building sand castles just wasn't my think so I decided to go into the water. The sea water was icy cold against my feet and the rocks I steped on were hard and pointy. I haerd my other brother call and wanted to come with me.
  2. Not to mention, I was right next to the metal bench where you sit down to try on shoes. So here goes the attempt. My right foot goes down. My right arm goes down. But, as my face reached the ground, it smaked directly on the corner of the bench! Instantly the taste of the salty tears was on my lips.

From the College Prep: (as written)

  1. The phone rang unexpectedly the nervousness as he answers "hello". Then all ofa sudden a long pause, his eyes get teary, he had a puzzled look on his face. what's wrong? He replied says" nothing, nothing's wrong don't worry "me, I was young but I still had a feeling he was laying to me. You no that dark weird feeling at the pit of your stomach I had that.
  2. As I walked into my house from a day of eating ice cream and pizza with my friends, I heard my mom sobbing upstairs. I rushed upstairs to her room to find her sitting at the edge of her bed sniffing and trying to catch her breath. She picked up her head and I instantly knew she had been crying for a while because her eyes were blood shot red.

My reactions to:

Honors: These students lack an understanding of punctuation and complete thoughts. Also, they tried too hard to impress which resulted in cluttered paragraphs and stories that never ended.

College Prep: These students are all over the place. Some students could tell the story, but like the second example, need to vary sentence patterns. More than one student didn't even write a narrative (of course they didn't have rough drafts during the workshop days).

I'm not putting grades on these essays. It just wouldn't be right. So they will be rewriting. I'm thinking I might have them focus on just one section of their essay to revise for a final grade. But what writing instruction will have the greatest effect? That I don't know.


At 5:34 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I suspect that having another person read aloud parts of the story to the author will help reinforce the idea of needed punctuation. (If indeed they can read using punctuaation.)

Perhaps that is a place to start.
Try this exercise:
Give a few ways to punctuate the same short sentence. Then have them read it differently dependent on the punctuaiton.
You may need to demonstrate.


It's about time!
It's about time?

Where have you been, Ray?
Where have you been! Ray?
I have found that younger studnets do not know how to respond to, "read the first sentence." or "read the second paragraph and stop."

Perhaps going back to others' writing will remind them that their readers depend on punctuation to aid in establishing meaning from their text.

I guess I've rambled.
It seems that these students have been filled with "explode a snapshot" or elaborate, while losing the idea that they want to communicate a precise idea and embellish for interest once the idea is established.

They're frosting the cake and it's not cooked yet.


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