Miss Bennett in the Bay

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Sep 30 2008

Writer’s Workshop

One of the coolest new things that I’ve been doing this year in my classroom is writer’s workshop. The kids get to work at their own pace on a piece of writing, and I give mini-lessons on things they should consider while writing. It’s great.

For the first round, we are writing personal narratives based on an emotional experience. As a model, I’m writing a story about a time when my arm got stuck under the bar of a roller coaster car. It’s one of those things that doesn’t happen very often, so imagine my surprise when one of my students started writing a very similar story.

Me: Oh, G, you’re supposed to be writing your own story today, not copying mine.
G: Yes, I know.
Me: Ok, then why are you writing about getting your arm stuck on a roller coaster?
G: That happened to me.
Me: Really? When?
G: When I was five.

Ok, now, I remember being seven years old and saying that random stuff had happened to me when I was five. I think I thought that at the age of seven I was so much older than five that nobody would ever know if what I was saying was true or not, since it was in the distant past. I really, really doubt that this girl had this scenario happen to her when she was five. She probably hadn’t even been on a roller coaster by that point. But she is one of my weaker writers, and so I’m not sure what I can push her to yet. I’m going to let it go for now, but if when we start a new story she copies me again, we’ll be having a serious talk about thinking for yourself. These kids really keep me on my toes.

3 Responses

  1. I have this problem with my kids all the time (high schoolers!), although not necessarily from the same root cause. I have had to stop giving examples in the past because they would just copy whatever I had, rather than expend any sort of mental effort. I’ve taken to making my example something that patently does not fit the assignment, but still displays the characteristics I’m looking for. Writing a memoir and grading on sensory detail? Mine is chock full of sensory detail… and about the time I was kidnapped by aliens. I don’t know if elementary schoolers could handle that, or understand why you were writing about something other than what they have to write about, but that was my solution.

  2. Jerry

    One time, when my daughter was four or five, we were at Santa’s Village in East Dundee, IL and her arm got stock in the safety bar when it went down with no warning. I started yelling at the ride attendant so that he would not start the ride. He finally heard me and stopped the coaster before it left the station. Her arm was pinched so tightly that the mark lasted the rest of the day.
    Later, the same day, we road a chairlift ride and the hanger was bent so badly that we thought that we were going to fall out. The chair was swaying so much that it felt as if it would fall off the cable.
    What a day. We never went back to Santa’s Village.
    I think that you copied my story!

  3. chrisb

    Ha, I forgot about the chairlift ride part of the story.

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"All that is gold does not glitter, not all who wander are lost." -J. R. R. Tolkien

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