kitchen table math, the sequel: A young writer's work in progress

Friday, November 16, 2007

A young writer's work in progress

Just when I was wondering if my daughter's writing program was taking her somewhere, it all came together in Lesson 11, Writing a Complete Essay. When she got to Lesson 12, Evaluating Your Essay, I was feeling pretty good about choosing Grammar & Writing 6 by Curtis and Hake.

In Lesson 10, she was provided with the thesis statement "I can do things to make the world a better place." After brainstorming for supporting ideas, she finally put it all together in Lesson 11 and by Lesson 12 had come up with the following:


Even though I may be only nine years old, I can make a big difference in this world. There are small things I do that will make the world a better place.

One important thing I do is protect natural habitats. I do not feed wild animals because it disrupts the balance of nature. I pick up my trash and sometimes even clean up other people’s litter. I also try not to disrupt the order of natural habitats by using paths instead of trampling over plant life when I am outside.

When I am inside, there are certain things that I do to conserve natural resources. I turn off lights when I do not need them. I make sure I turn off the faucets when I am finished using them. One other thing I do is keep my showers brief so that I do not waste water.

Recycling is yet another important way to care for our environment because it saves trees, water, energy, and landfill space. I carefully sort out items that can be recycled and place them in a special bin. I try to find new uses for things instead of buying something new. Finally, I use recycled paper and biodegradable products whenever possible.

When all is said and done, taking care of our planet is a huge responsibility but I am able to do things that make the world a better place. I can protect natural habitats, conserve natural resources, and care for our environment by recycling. If I can make a big difference by making small changes, maybe you can too.
This is a huge milestone for my very reluctant writer. She is extremely bright and very verbal, but she doesn't consider herself a writer. This process guided her through each step of the writing process in a way that makes sense. She doesn't just know that she's supposed to write an introductory sentence, topic sentence, supporting statement, etc., she knows what this means. She also understands the importance of transitions, sequence, and the level of detail that come into play in writing an essay. Hake has unraveled the mystery of writing by providing her with an easy to follow recipe. As far as I can see, it's working quite well so far.

I particularly liked the fact that even after Lesson 11 when the essay was quite good, in Lesson 12 she was asked to go back and evaluate her writing critically because writing is always a "work in progress." Mary Hake reminds the young writer "The knowledge that writing is a process should guide your thinking throughout the construction of an essay." She then goes on to prompt the writer with questions which help the self-evaluation process move along.

As a disclaimer, I have to say that I don't believe the writing component would work as well without the grammar, dictation and journaling exercises. There is a sequence to the lessons and we have been following the suggested schedule. My daughter also consistently outlines and summarizes information in her world history lessons and this has fine-tuned her writing further. Book reports on classic literature are part of her studies as well. Nevertheless, I don't believe she would have been able to write such a logical, clear and well-thought out essay pre-Hake Grammar & Writing.

My next task as her teacher, is to finish reading Writing to the Point by Kerrigan. From what I understand so far of Kerrigan's approach to teaching writing, it seems to fit in very well to the Hake approach to teaching a much younger writer.

Who knew that learning to write could be so logical and presented so very clearly.

Grammar and Writing
Christie Curtis & Mary Hake

17 comments:

Maddy said...

Very impressive! I could do with a few tips myself.
Cheers

Jo Anne C said...

Concerned:

Thanks so much for sharing your experiences with the Grammar and Writing program.

Does this program have students diagram sentences?

I have just discovered that my 4th grader doesn't understand the difference between adverbs and adjectives. Apparently he isn't being taught grammar to mastery either.

Please keep these updates coming.

Catherine Johnson said...

Thanks so much for posting this!

Her paper is amazing.

concernedCTparent said...

Jo anne- Yes, sentences are diagrammed. It's not overkill with the diagramming but there are optional additional practice pages when it seems necessary.

Catherine- I'll tell her you said so. That will mean a lot! (She actually doesn't know I posted it here yet.)

Catherine Johnson said...

Hi Jo Anne!

I have the same copy of Hake Concerned has; it does teach sentence diagramming - pretty extensively I would say.

(Haven't used Hake at all. No time. If I were homeschooling Hake is the series I'd choose, though.)

Tracy said...

Wow, what an impressive essay. I'm particularly impressed with how she varied the format of each sentence, rather than starting each essay with an "I".

concernedCTparent said...

One of the previous lesson focused on transitions. When the student puts the essay together, they are reminded to use transitions as they rewrite. In the editing stage, they are reminded about transitions once again. I think that played a big role in not beginning each sentence with "I".

Jo Anne C said...

"If I were homeschooling Hake is the series I'd choose, though."

Hi Catherine!

Wow, if you (as a best selling author) would choose Hake to home school writing, I'm sold.

I am thrilled to hear Hake covers sentence diagramming. It is my hope that this type of exercises will help N to master grammar. Wouldn't it also promote better reading comprehension?

My husband and son collect bottles and cans at our neighborhood middle school and have brought home discarded samples of student writing found on the campus. Papers they uncovered this fall convinced my husband that home schooling N would be the best choice we could make.

Catherine Johnson said...

Wow, what an impressive essay. I'm particularly impressed with how she varied the format of each sentence, rather than starting each essay with an "I".

Absolutely.

Catherine Johnson said...

I'm probably most amazed by the coherence.

That is SO hard.

Catherine Johnson said...

My husband and son collect bottles and cans at our neighborhood middle school and have brought home discarded samples of student writing found on the campus.

oh, that's funny

well, not funny ha-ha

Catherine Johnson said...

One of the previous lesson focused on transitions. When the student puts the essay together, they are reminded to use transitions as they rewrite. In the editing stage, they are reminded about transitions once again.

I found a couple of studies I wasn't able to pull from "BOBCAT" (because they're too old) on "cohesion devices."

The two abstracts made it sound as if cohesion devices alone can make the difference between writing that is obviously bad and writing that may be bad but seems "good" if you follow me....

In other words, you can mask a lot of flaws just using cohesion devices.

Cohesion devices are now my "number one workaround," similar to C's stock answer for constructivist math tests back in K-5 ("I used a strategy of guess and check and then I looked for a pattern.")

I'm now telling C.: IF NOTHING ELSE, MAKE SURE YOU HAVE TRANSITIONS EVERYWHERE.

concernedCTparent said...

IF NOTHING ELSE, MAKE SURE YOU HAVE TRANSITIONS EVERYWHERE.

I think that's very sound advice. Transitions could divert the reader's attention and piece together writing that would be much less cohesive without them. The student should be able to quickly access a mental list of transitions to sift through when writing an essay. This could work wonders in a standardized test format, I would imagine.

KarenA said...

I, too, think this essay is excellent! I am also impressed that she actually turns off lights when she leaves a room--this is a habit that I am still trying to instill in my much-older children!

KarenA said...

I know both of my children have been taught (can't tell you which grade, specifically) to use transitions with their writing. I think at a young age, especially, it serves to remind the students of the need to segue from one thought to another and to see paragraphs (and thoughts!) as somehow logically connected.

When my older daughter was writing her Junior thesis, the student teacher did an excellent job of reading the rough drafts and providing meaningful comments. One area that K. needed to improve was in her transitions. She also had to strenthen her thesis statement.

Her topic (self-inflicted) was an analysis and comparison of Steinbeck's East of Eden to the Bible; that is, a discussion and analysis of whether man is born basically evil, basically good, or perhaps both.

Keeping track of all of the characters with similar names in both texts was in and of itself a challenge. In any event, I just remember both of us sweating bullets over the transitions in that paper!

Catherine Johnson said...

Transitions could divert the reader's attention and piece together writing that would be much less cohesive without them.

Directors and lighting people talk about "cheating a shot" -- that's kind of what we're talking about here.

I once tried to mask a flaw in logic in a magazine article with transition words.

I was sick of the article & didn't realize I hadn't made the point I thought I'd made....and I thought, "Bag it. I've got a transtion. My editor won't notice."

I was busted immediately.

Catherine Johnson said...

Keeping track of all of the characters with similar names in both texts was in and of itself a challenge. In any event, I just remember both of us sweating bullets over the transitions in that paper!

Speaking of which, I need a geneaology tree for the Old Testament.

I bet I could find one online somewhere.