kitchen table math, the sequel: teach your babies to write

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

teach your babies to write

A poem about the five-paragraph essay.

By a middle school teacher.

From what I can see, the situation in writing instruction is far grimmer than that in mathematics instruction -- that is, it's far grimmer if you discount the fact that many people can teach themselves to write (I think), while not many can teach themselves math.

More evidence of writing instruction grimmery: things get worse in college, not better.

At the college level, people have entered the "post-process" era, "post-process" meaning "post-process writing," i.e. post-Lucy Calkins & her kin.

That turns out to be a bad thing.

Thank You, Whole Language
this is Lucy Calkins
Lucy Calkins Day
Becky Does Cargo Cult Lucy
stupid mayor trick
stupid mayor trick, part 2
stupid mayor trick, part 3

Theory Into Practice
Process, Post-Process, a bibliography
Writing Beyond the Headline: Building a Writing Program at Princeton (pdf file)


PaulaV said...


My son C.'s, who is in fourth grade, picked out Woodsong by Gary Paulsen to read for his reading log assignment. When I picked up the book to read it, the first thing I noticed was that some of the vocabulary is way over his head. This book is for 12 & up. C is nine years old.

He must read for twenty minutes, write a brief summary of the chapters read, and write a couple of sentences about one idea from a list of sentence leads.

One of the lead sentences for the reading response is "The genre of this book is___________. The way I know this is because...

So, I asked C. did he know what the word genre meant? He had absolutely no idea.

I know why C. picked this book. He looked at the cover and saw the dogs and thought he would like it because it is an animal story. It seems like a great story to read to him, however, I am not sure he is getting anything out of it by reading it himself.

So, last night I was googling Woodsong trying to find out how to explain each chapter so that he may understand enough to write a coherent summary and lead sentence.

Perhaps I will learn more on how the teacher plans to teach writing at back-to-school night tomorrow evening.

Any suggestions on how I should approach the subject of how the teacher plans to teach writing this year? I could use some advice.

Tex said...

Paula, you are in a tough situation.

My first reaction would be to inform the teacher that I do not make it a practice of doing my child’s homework, and that if I don’t do this homework then she’s going to fail miserably, and how can the teacher help. And, if she can’t, can she suggest a resource for outside tutoring (sarcastic).

That’s my first reaction, but I’d have to think about this. But, seriously, I do not want to let our teachers get away with not teaching!

Tex said...

My daughter has significant difficulties with writing. She’s been doing Kumon reading for two months now. The jury’s still out, but I like what I see so far.

PaulaV said...


Thanks for the suggestion! I would have already talked with the teacher, but he doesn't have an email address. As a matter of fact, he is the only fourth grade teacher who doesn't have an email account.

Our elmentary school relies heavily on journal writing. There doesn't seem to be any structure on how to write a coherent sentence much less summarize what the author is trying to get across.

Kumon has been great for my fourth grader in terms of focusing on comprehension. However, he has been so accustomed to filling in easy blanks at school that he thinks Kumon should be just as easy. Well, it is not. We are currently having several meltdowns after school.

My first grader is in the Kumon reading program also!

concernedCTparent said...

I have to say that I'm really liking Hake Grammar & Writing (Level 6) so far. In this first week of homeschooling my fifth grader we've covered 4 types of sentences (imperative, declarative, interrogative, exclamatory), simple subjects, simple predicates, identifying complete sentences, fragments, and run-on sentences. There have been 3 journal entries, and dictation. The writing lesson for this week was sentence combining.

Last week we did also did Writing Strands and that was really well received by my "reluctant writer" as well.

For younger students, I really like First Language Lessons for the Well Trained Mind (Level 3). I've used it with my second grader. We've covered nouns, forming plurals, common and proper nouns and pronouns and done some dictation. By next week he'll be diagramming simple sentence.

The lessons are efficient, long enough to work to mastery but brief enough to keep their attention. Review is built in but not overdone at all. I think it might be easy to afterschool with either program because they are quite stealth.

Definitely worth a look.