To be absolutely honest, when I first saw my fifth grade students writing, I almost cried because their writing was extremely below their grade standard. Since English is their second language and in some cases their fourth language, some students struggled streaming together a sentence while others tried to form a paragraph with little coherence. I thought, how in the world would I ever get them up to grade level or where do I even begin? However, one day when I told my father over the phone how overwhelmed I felt about my students writing, he said some simple words that pushed me forward, “Don’t worry, you will do your best… teach them little-by-little what you know and day-by-day they will start to improve. You’ll see!” I would hang onto his advice and add some over the top enthusiasm and passion, as this would be the fuel for their transformation into little professional writers.
|The Chart Paper Queen|
While the students independently created thoughtful sentences, I would buzz around the room giving them feedback and searching for interesting sentences. When I found a great sentence, I would often shout, “Oh my goodness, I love your sentence, everyone stop what they’re doing and listen to how beautiful this sentence is, listen to how he used the word…” and then sometimes I would hug their sentences or give their paper a pretend kiss. My silliness never failed to put a smile on every students face and they rushed to try to create the best sentence so they could watch my give their paper a big squeeze. Finally, I would choose students to display their sentences on the chalkboard so the class could copy the sentences in their notebooks and they would have more examples of great sentences.
|Writing, writing, writing|
However, I truly new something magical occurred when one day, a group of them ran into the class after morning assembly telling me that they heard some transitional phrases in the morning speech and they even copied them down on their hands so they wouldn’t forget. They shouted, “Miss Miss Miss did you hear the conjunctions and transition words this morning in the speech. The speaker was very smart because he used the word furthermore and at the end of his speech he said, in conclusion.” I was stunned! From that day forward, I had unleashed a class of monsters; they were obsessed with listening to how speakers used different conjunctions and transition words. In fact, one day they even critiqued me; while we were walking to the store, I shouted, “Get out of the road!” and a student added to my sentence shouting, “OTHERWISE you will get hit by a car.” Then another tried to outdo us, “NOT ONLY will you get hit by a car, BUT ALSO you will have to go to the BHU.” Apparently, my simple sentence was not good enough and they were having fun making it sound more interesting. It was a great moment for me.
But it didn’t stop there. They further shocked me when their obsession spilled over to analyzing the different ways that authors wrote great sentences. They became passionate searching their library books for great sentences that contained similes, metaphors, colons, transition words, etc. I discovered that they were studying on their own how professional writers wrote. Once I realized exactly how brilliant my students were, I got some chart paper and made a long banner that read: WE ARE PROFESSIONAL WRITERS.
I hung it above the chalkboard and I told the students that we were going to do some serious analyzing of professional writers, so that they could become real professional writers too. For several days, we combed through stacks of library books analyzing how writers wrote, studied fairy tale writing, non-fiction writing, etc. all while they recorded their favorite sentences that they stumbled upon; they filled pages of their notebooks with beautiful sentences from great authors. Finally, they were ready to start writing paragraphs using their new knowledge. Eventually, they graduated to writing short essay and finally, they had fun creating fairy tales and moral stories.
|I feel like a proud mom|
A few samples of some of my FIFTH GRADERS homework without corrections. Their writing in the raw.
Sample of their color-coding
A few short stories they wrote outside under trees
Dilkumari Subba's Fairy Tales - So precious
Chimi's essay without corrections
This is what I get for a typical homework assignement: brainstorming, labels and color-coding of vocabulary/conjunctions.
Pema Choki's surprise speech to my parent's- she went way off topic, but it was pretty cute and we were very surprised