So, the week after school ended (Does school ever really end???), I wrote a letter, enclosed it with some newsletter copies, and sent the package off to the center mentioned above.
Yesterday, I received a nice, handwritten note from the director, Dr. Michael Atwood Mason, thanking me for letting him know about my class’ activities.
I plan to display the card from the Smithsonian in my classroom in the fall. My students will be impressed that their words are reaching out even further than they ever expected with this project.
That short note got me thinking about how I’m thankful that my colleague gave me this suggestion to reach out. I think that often as teachers we become so involved in the cocoon of our classes that we forget that people out in “the real world” want and need to know what we’re doing inside the schools. It’s easy to become isolated in our work… with our main contacts on a daily basis being our students, administrators, other teachers, and parents.
This experience has reminded me to make the effort to branch out a little and communicate with those beyond the walls of my classroom. Not only does it give me a boost in the everyday routine when I hear back from a contact I’ve made, but it also reminds me to be open to the possibilities and future opportunities that may occur as a result of my sharing.
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I love this assignment. And to think that I almost didn’t assign it due to the “busy-ness” of the last week and its field trips, assemblies, and other end-of-year activities. Through the words of my students, I’ve learned so much about what is important to them with regards to my classes, including those areas they know they need to grow in next year.
And, by the way, this was a first-draft assignment, which meant we would not be taking the time to revise; however, students know that I expect them to polish their first drafts, making any corrections or revisions needed before turning in.
Here are a few golden lines from some of my sixth-graders, transcribed here without corrections, along with my own reflections and thoughts.
“I am so much better at punctuation that I was last year. punctuation has always been hard for me, because I always seem to be using the wrong mark.”
It’s nice to know this student feels progress in this area.
“I used to just say, ‘I walked to the store.’ Now I add alot more detail and say, ‘I cassually walked to the small, brightly colored store.’ So because I add in more detail the reader gets a better picture, and I won’t need to answer as many questions.”
Sensory language and imagery are emphasized in class and it shows. With her funny final remark, I think this student is relating that her descriptions paint a picture so clear that the reader isn’t left with questions. That’s progress!
“I feel like I explain things in all my stories instead of making it an interesting story that people would actually read.”
This student is beginning to understand “show don’t tell.”
“Granted, there are spell check softwares, but computers can’t fix everything, like tense and homophones.”
Yes! A student who sees the limits of technology!
“I can tell what transitions are I used to get them mixed up. And the same with fanboys. But now I can actually remember most of them and when I can use them and how to use them.”
This student is becoming adept at some of the most often used tools that writers use to express their ideas smoothly… conjunctions and transitions.
“Writing is a way that I express myself. It helps me have less stress and helps me worry less.”
This is a milestone in itself. This student will go far if she has this mindset in sixth grade!
“I feel Mrs. Yung makes you do a lot of writing so you get compturible it’s rough at first but by a month or two you will be find you’ll write for fun also.”
This student struggles with many basics, but has shown improvement over the course of the school year. He also wants to improve, which is half the battle. Goals for next year: learning to reserve enough time to polish and revise the writing.
“Mrs. Yung put writing contest so if you you get a prize or even in a book. I think writing is the easiest thing to do case you write about when you think about and it takes skill too.”
I know this assignment was a challenge for this student. He didn’t reach the word requirement, but did get his thoughts onto the page. Goals for next year: syntax, simple sentence structure.
“We wrote from just writing a big blob of words to dividing into paragraphs.”
A primary objective of elementary writing instruction is mastering the paragraph. Writing a draft of multiple paragraphs is indeed new territory and one we will continue to observe in seventh grade. I still see too many one-paragraph essays.
“Words are things that are beautiful to picture, things that glow in the world.”
This student obviously values words and does it with a creative flair. Score!
“I really like poems now. Last year I always thought poems had to rhyme but when I went to 6th grade I learned that they didn’t have to rhyme.”
“I have also learned that there are many types of things to write. My where I’m from poem this is a good example of something I was proud of. I put basically everything I know about myself in there.”
Variety is the spice of life and that goes for writing, too! While it’s good to focus on the standards, argument writing, et al, it’s important to show students the more creative side of the craft.
“Another thing is that I can put more feeling and emotion into my stories and essays, by using descriptive words and I feel like I could throw my voice into it.”
It’s gratifying that this student feels free to express himself on the page.
“Language arts isn’t my favorite subject actually science is but Language arts is interesting and has a lot of rules. Sadly I don’t quite understand all of them, because they are tricky and English is one of the hardest languages to understand this makes it more difficult. Also, I’ve been practicing it sense I was a little child.”
It’s easy to forget that English is a difficult language to master. It’s full of rules and contradictions to those rules. This response reminds me how important it is for me to provide students the writing tools and techniques they will need as they mature to more developed writing.
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