So Awkward Writing

In teaching writing, we can follow a three-step procedure:

1. There’s always something to affirm in a student’s work: a good (or even interesting) word selection, a dress-up that actually did work, a sentence or paragraph that does make sense or follows a particular rule, or even just the fact that the assignment was completed! If a teacher starts out on a positive note, then any constructive criticism that follows will likely be better received.

2. Choose a particularly awkward sentence from the child’s composition.
Copy it into a notebook for yourself, and then at the start of the next lesson, create a similarly awkward sentence to study together by changing some of the nouns or verbs, etc. Put the sentence on the board and discuss it with your students, helping them to see why it is awkward or incorrect, then rewriting it together. Repeat this process each day or each lesson, using a similar (but different) sentence, until they can consistently correct it by themselves.

3. Select another awkward sentence or usage, and repeat the process of working through similar sentences together, discussing and rewriting one a day, until that idea or skill is better understood. Children (and adults) are always more willing to correct other people’s errors than their own. By providing them with contrived mistakes to correct, we give them the practice they need in small, focused, non-threatening parts. Thus, we can teach at the point of need, without stomping all over a child for every awkward word or construction (which can wipe out the student’s motivation).