Saturday, December 7, 2013

Teaching the Writing Process

I wanted to share our "writing process" for anyone that might find it helpful.  This year, my 11yo and I are members of CC (Classical Conversations) Essentials, which includes an IEW (Institute for Excellence in Writing) writing course.

1. We brainstorm an outline for our writing assignment.  This can be done 100 different ways, but using the IEW model, we use a Key Word Outline.  We use 3 words + symbols to represent each sentence we want to include in our writing.  Here, we are using the Unit 5 Picture Writing assignment from the Medieval History  theme.  Our outline looks like this (which won't make a whole lot of sense to you all, lol!  But to us, it makes sense).


I. Topic - king, dragon, hid
1. cave, hear, snort
2. spear, try, dragon
3. Blow, fire, quote
4. King, scared, cannon
Clincher: ...

As we were writing this, dd came up with a quote for one of her characters.  I jotted this down.  Note: I actually did all the writing, and she did most of the speaking.  I asked questions to help her develop her ideas, and then I feverishly put them down on the board.

2. We look critically at our outline.  We actually make changes to the outline, as my 11yo gets new ideas, or decides to take her writing in another direction.  Next, we determine which sentence structures to include.  If you aren't using IEW, or aren't teaching sentence structures yet, skip this step.  We have the same outline above, but now with numbers in circles.

I. 5-clausal
1. 2-prepositional phrase
2. 3- LY beginning

3. We write the sentences.  She dictates, I write.  I've learned to be a bit skeptical as she throws out words.  She'd love to make any small picture into a 1000 words, so I listen first and determine if it is the sentence we want to use.  If not, I make suggestions, and she tries again.  Sometimes the sentences are all hers, sometimes we tag-team sentences to get them just right.  Often, she comes up with her last sentence, first.  I jot it down so that we don't lose it in the process.  We include it or toss it out when we get back to the last sentence.


Sidenote: ignore the big R and OR.  Dd was tracing the words permanently etched on our whiteboard from 7 years ago, when I first taught them to read.  I used a dry erase marker, I swear!  It just never came off.

4. We improve our words.  We remove any dull words (or banned words, for IEW users).  We add words that make the details more vivid, like descriptive verbs, adverbs, adjectives, and different clauses.  In IEW lingo, we add "dress ups".  For non-IEW users, we just add descriptive words.

5. Finally, I type it up on my laptop.  I format it and force her to watch (because, believe me, she's ready to dance off and play video games at this point).

Phew!  One paragraph, done!  It feels like I am co-authoring these papers, but I've seen what happens when I make her write independently: it's creative, but it doesn't meet the requirements of the assignment.  If she spends her time writing an assignment that doesn't meet requirements, then we both get frustrated.  It's better this way.  If we repeat tag-team effort often enough, eventually she's going to shoo me away and say, "I've got this!"  It may not happen this year, or even next, but I know it will happen someday.  Right now, I'm giving her the tools.

My 13yo (8th grader) is taking an IEW writing class with another teacher, using the Narnia themed lessons.  Thus far, she does the writing process independently.  Once she has her key word outline, she has me sit in as her audience and she tries sentences out on me.  I give my approval and then she writes it.  After she's completed the initial draft, we go through and correct it together.  It is a much more hands-off process for me.  There is hope that this will happen for the next kid, too.

Note: I've realized during this last lesson that it is more important for my student to do LESS writing and write WELL, while meeting the requirements of the assignment, then it is to do MORE writing, and meet LESS requirements.  This revelation has helped frame *how* I teach, and *how* we accomplish those goals.

Resources:  I highly recommend Andrew Pudewa's audio 4 Deadly Errors of Teaching Writing.  It can be purchased for $3.00 here.  Or, if you know me in real life, I'd love to get together, pop popcorn, and drink coffee with you while we listen to it together:)  It is very encouraging and answers the question "how much is too much help, when writing with my child?"  I found it invaluable and I think about that audio every time I work with my dd.

But what about handwriting? Isn't this cheating?  I answer this question here in the post What About Handwriting?

1 comment:

Lisa Wagner said...

How did I not know you were here now?

I read somewhere that Andrew Pudewa says that students need us BY THEIR SIDE to practice the new writing skills until they are integrated. So you are doing it exactly right!