Thursday, March 27, 2014

Inspiring students to write

This winter, and now thank goodness spring, I've been working by videoconference with two classrooms in Missoula, Montana, helping them with their writing projects, through iNK Think Tank's Authors on Call program, posted publicly at  At Franklin School I'm working with fourth graders, and this month they are sidelined by testing.  But the third graders at Lewis and Clark School have finished their project.  My book, "When the Wolves Returned: Restoring Nature's Balance in Yellowstone," is their guide to writing well, and they have been working very hard at it.

In our first videoconference, I talked to them about the importance of beginning a story with something mysterious or exciting, with a beginning, middle, and end, just like a little story in itself.   Each student is writing about a member of the deer family.  Here is Oliver's first paragraph:

"Imagine walking through the woods.  You see something with fangs.  A lion? A wolf? A sabertooth tiger?  No.  It is a musk deer, the only deer with fangs."

Another student wrote:

"On an early foggy morning you can hear distant clanking in the air. As the fog clears you can see two kudu. You come closer and can that their horns are interlocking. They are pulling and tugging but can't get separated."

Wouldn't you want to read more?

In our second videoconference, students were able to read their beginning paragraphs to me, and I gave them specific advice on how to improve the writing.  When an author makes suggestions, the students accept them very easily, while sometimes if it's a parent or teacher making suggestions they aren't as willing to make the changes.

The students are carefully studying my writing and noting down the "powerful" words I use and looking them up if they are unfamiliar with them.  Then they compare them with "ordinary" words I could have used:

I'm very proud of these young writers who are working so hard to do their best, and I think having a "live" author work directly with them to help them with their  difficulties can lead not only to rapid improvement in their work but also in increased enthusiasm about writing and reading.

If you want to know more about our work with students in the classroom, go to .


Unknown said...

What I love is the fresh, new voices of the children's writing. You know that they are not plaigerizing. It also gives them an opportunity to express their own enthusiasm for content. Amazing work, Dorothy.

Dorothy Patent said...

Thanks, Vicky. Working with these children has been so personally rewarding for me!