Composition Cautions Overcoming Problems Faced in Writing Susan Roberts Reading Specialist Jefferson County Schools
Reference • Writing the Four Blocks Way Drs. Pat and James Cunningham, Dr. Dorothy Hall, and Sharon Moore
Attempt to avoid writing Don’t know what to write about Given a topic, don’t know anything to say about it Can’t write because they can’t spell the words Write a little, claim they’re finished Caution 1: Students Lack Motivation Students with a motivation problem:
Lack of self-efficacy in writing Lack of intrinsic motivation to write Lack of independence in writing Caution 1: Students Lack Motivation Three aspects to the motivation problem:
Encourage self-selected writing frequently Allow single-draft writing Share first drafts in a positive atmosphere Allow phonetic spelling Caution 1: Students Lack Motivation What can I do about it?
The sequential steps that they complete with a piece of writing To repeat the steps with the next piece of writing… and the next To repeatedly engage in first draft writing with phonetic spelling To share their writing in a positive environment To receive feedback from peers and teachers Students need the four square graphic organizer for self-selected writing because they need:
Caution 1: Students Lack Motivation Avoid giving students knowledge about writing when what they need is…. Knowledge – how to write…. SHOW…..DON’T TELL!
This is where the mini-lesson comes in…. A mini-lesson is: • Focused on a particular skill or process • Modeled writing by the teacher by the teacher at the overhead while students watch • Followed by student independent writing
Caution 3: “Writing is Not Speaking:” These students have the problem of writing their speech down when it requires additional skills that speaking does not.
Five aspects of the “writing is not speaking” problem: Handwriting Spelling Capitalization Punctuation Formatting Capitalization, punctuation, and formatting are the rule-governed mechanics of writing. Handwriting and spelling comprise basic writing fluency.
Speaking requires none of these, but writing requires all five. • Handwriting • Spelling • Capitalization • Punctuation • Formatting
Teach students the basic rules that govern the mechanics of writing. Teach writing mini-lessons on topics such as: • Capitalization • Punctuation • Format • Grammar • Steps in the writing process Caution 3: “Writing is Not Speaking:” What can I do about it?
Teach editing: • Teach students to proofread and correct their own first drafts for correct spelling and correct application of the rules. • Use mini-lessons to teach editing and revising. • Use an editor’s checklist as a list of rules for editing, revising, and publishing Caution 3: “Writing is Not Speaking:” What can I do about it?
Caution 4: Students who lack the ability to “juggle” all of the components of writing at the same time This lack-of-automaticity problem is a very natural one.
Teach writing skills often through mini-lessons. Have students write often to gradually increase in their automaticity with the parts of writing. What can I do about it?
With frequent practice, empower students gradually to improve in length, sophistication, and mechanical correctness. Allow students to self-edit their own first drafts as soon as they are able. What can I do about it?
Caution 5: Expecting final or published drafts to be totally free of mechanical errors
Puts the responsibility for editing on the student rather than on the teacher Allows you to check their editing and help them fix a few things (conferencing) Allows for much more learning of writing rules by students Students should edit their own papers.
Caution 6: Starting revision too early in the year Do not ask students to revise until most of them have: • developed some self-confidence with writing • developed intrinsic motivation and independence in first-draft writing • developed independence in editing
Do not try to achieve perfectly neat handwriting or correct spelling on a draft. Eliminate all recopying during process writing. Only recopy or type once during the complete writing process. Caution 7: Allowing students to recopy pieces before they are revised, edited, and approved.
Make small revisions in the space above each line. (skip lines) Make larger revisions by cutting and pasting (literally or on word processor). Copy first drafts after they have been revised and edited. Caution 7: Allowing students to recopy pieces before they are revised, edited, and approved.
Caution 8: Having students revise every first draft seriously erodes the students’ willingness and enthusiasm to revise.
Students end up more willing to revise. That revision does not dampen their interest in writing first drafts Students work harder on a first draft if they get to choose which of three or more to take through the writing process. Students should write at least three first drafts for every one they revise.
Heed these composition cautions… to overcome problems faced in writing.