I love these days. The entire class sitting, studiously crafting drafts of fiction or non-fiction. It is balm to my heart, especially after having to say, “You must pencil in the boundaries before you color them,” for their new map of Pre-Roman Italy no less than seven times. It’s my own fault, I shouldn’t have allowed them access to the colored pencils before I checked their work. Ah well. We all live and learn.
At this point most of the students are crafting the first draft of their essay. Because they saw the returning students go from an outline to a first draft on The Alchemist paper, the new students are taking to it like ducks to things ducks like to swim in. All the students know what to do, and they love having class time to do it. I like giving them the time. It does several things for them. 1) It gives them a safe place to work. 2) It keeps parents from “helping”. 3) It lessens their homework load. 4) It allows me to see their work ethic. 5) And as I write with them (that’s what I’m doing now), they see me working, too. When they get squirrelly, I remind them that I’m writing too and they need to not distract me (code for “classmates”.) Often, they ask me to read what I have written.
Mostly, I can be there when I notice a student start to “spin”. Spinning is when a student knows what to say (it’s on the outline) but can’t put it into a sentence. I can be there to help them slam the idea into place. Hey, it’s a first draft, it’s not meant to be beautiful. I can also stop a student from spending half an hour trying to say something which is not on their outline. Getting students to trust their outline is one of the biggest parts of essay writing. They may learn that the outline doesn’t have enough information. At this point I don’t want them trying to beef it up. Instead, I want them to gather more information for their brainstorm on the next paper.
I don’t pick up or look at these drafts (unless a student brings it to me). The homework tonight is to finish the draft if it isn’t already finished and print out a hard copy for use in class tomorrow. Students who don’t bring in a hard copy must re-write their paper while the rest of us are doing our Clang Sessions. (See earlier post.) But I know they have all done the work. I’m watching them do it. And the sound of muttering, key tapping, pencil sharpening, and switching back and forth between outline and paper as students slam ideas into paragraph form is simply music to my ears.