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Monthly Archives: February 2013
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I agree that most students fear writing. However, I have found lots of practice, using graphic organizers for prewriting, and individual mini-conferences with each student while the others are working independently or in small groups helps tremendously. I also believe in giving students a choice of essay topic as if they enjoy what they are writing about they are more motivated. Whether it involves a novel, a persausive topic, or research topic, providing students with a choice allows them to feel more in control and not as overwhelmed.
Before we talk about editing, I cannot stress the importance of pre-writing! I tutor tons of students of all ages and you would be suprised at how many either were never taught how to prewrite (concept maps, brainstorming, outlining etc) or were taught but still have no idea how to use this tool. Pre-writing allows students to focus on the topic and also to structure their writing so that it progresses logicially. No matter what the grade level from elmentary to high school, pre-writing is extremely effective and necessary. In addition, once students complete their pre-writing they gain confidence that the actual essay writing comes a lot easier.
Finally, to address the individual min conferences, I am pretty detailed in my annotating of mistakes but not only do I acknowledge the mistakes, I also offer examples of how to fix them or rewrite the sentence. At the end of every student’s paper I bullet point the strengths and weaknesses of the essay. This helps the students see what they did well and what the need to improve on. Unfortunately, if you don’t conference with students, many will just look at the grade and never look at the essay again. All my experience has been been in the middle and high school RSP English department so my classes have been a lot smaller than the average English class. It is too bad that not all students can have such small classes as I know conferencing and grading takes an exorbitant amount of time.
I recently found a great website called http://www.zunal.com that allows you to create your own webquest on any topic. This is a great way for your child or to teen to participate in some discovery learning that incorporates technology. It is educational but also a lot of fun! You can even have your middle school or high school students create their own webquests. It is free. I created a webquest on censorship 9th through 12th grade students for a class that I am taking. Please check it out at
I believe it is important to provide students with an editing checklist to make the revision process less scary! For example,
Did you use at least three transition words in your supporting detail paragraphs?
Did you start your introduction with a hook?
Did you provide general background information in your introduction paragraph?
Is your thesis the last sentence of your first paragraph?
Does your thesis address what the following three paragraphs will cover?
Do all your supporting paragraphs 1-3 support your thesis?
Do you lead into your quote with background information from the source (ie novel)?
Do you explain the significance of your quotes?
Did you use proper punctuation and capitalization?
Are all words spelled correctly?
Do you have a conclusion sentence at the end of every paragraph?
Did you restate your thesis in your conclusion using different words?
Did you comment on the implications of the or give your opinions in the conclusion paragraph?
This type of checklist provides a structured way for students to learn HOW to edit. Believe it or not, often students have never been taught how to revise their papers and what to exactly correct during the revision process.
Throughout my tutoring experience, I have found that many students of all ages have difficulty writing conclusion sentences. A good activity for elementary students is to give them a topic sentence and then tell them they need to write a conclusion that expresses the SAME IDEA but use DIFFERENT WORDS. They should NOT add new information (ie details) in their conclusion. It is extremely important to give them examples.
Topic: Winter sports are lots of fun.
Conclusion: I always look forward to participating in winter sports.
Topic: Last summer, I went to Hawaii with my family.
Conclusion: I enjoyed spending time with my family in Hawaii
Here are some other topics your student can try:
Topic: Students should not wear uniforms at school.
Topic: It is important to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables if you would like to have a healthy diet.
Topic: I will never forget my first day of fourth grade.