Focusing on Student’s strengths and Content

Some teachers, if given the chance to walk into my classroom, would have said I didn’t teach my students a damn thing today.  I beg to differ!

I started today with allowing my students to use their cell phones and our wiki page to do our writing into the day.  Today I asked the student to write about their strengths and weaknesses as writers.  The responses were phenomenal.  Answers included students favorite types of genres they have confidence in writing.  Other responses included their creativity and their ability to include a lot of details in their writing.  When it came to my students discussing their weakness, it was what I expected as a language arts teacher.  Most students wrote about specific conventions such as spelling, grammar, etc.  After a short discussion with them about over coming their weaknesses and how fixing conventions can be easy if you have other people check their writing, I focused on their strengths.  I talked to them about not focusing on the negative aspect of their writing, but to focus on what it is they do best.  I challenged them to explore their creativity.  Some students expressed concerns about never having an opportunity to write a mystery or a love story.  I simply told them to write it outside of class and I would do my best to find some contests where they could submit some writing they liked to do.  Oh, and extra credit isn’t always out of the question.  I talked to them about how at some point their switch was turned off for writing.  I reassured them, I would do my best to turn that switch back on.  Some of the boys reassured my ongoing research with boys and writing.  They were frustrated with the topics and types of writing they had to do.  They wanted to know why they couldn’t write about guns, war, and mild violence.  I smiled and said, why can’t you?  They looked confused, like who the heck is this guy and why is he letting me write about what I want to write about?  Yeah, I am that teacher. Get over it for those of you who think that I can’t.

Next, my 7th graders and I finished our wall charts for revision and editing.  I tallied up from all three sections of my 7th grade classes what were the most important areas to look at with revision and editing.  I was really bothered by one of the areas my students put as being important.  Proper heading was listed as one of the most important areas we should put on our classroom wall chart.  After doing some quick detective work and continued interrogation, I discovered they would lose up to five points in sixth grade if they didn’t put the proper heading.  So, what you are telling me is that if I am a student and I have a twenty point assignment and I mess up on my heading, I am going to lose five points and be at a C before my teacher even reads it?  No wonder students lose their passion to write.  We aren’t grading on proper headings.  Is it really that important my students can put their name, date, and hour in the upper right hand corner?  Ummm, let me think, NO!  Lets get real, we are after content here people.  Anyways, I calmed down and my students were feeling pretty amazed I would only knock off one point for not putting something right in their heading.

What are you focusing on in your student’s writing?

Cheers!

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