Tag Archives: drafting

Week 38 – Can the Training Wheels Miss the Bike?

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We were on our last week of school.  Tuesday was our last day of regular classes.  Wednesday students watch the Upper School Performance (which was wonderful) and had two Humanities classes.  We finished up our last essay which students presented as a speech. The 6th had a math class, but then, that’s it.  Thursday was a half day and that was all about cleaning up, gathering up, signing year books, and saying good-bye.  We also finished watching most of The Holy Grail, skipping Castle Anthrax.

The speech writing used the same pattern as any other expository writing.  Brainstorming, outlining, writing, and for some of the faster students, a chance to revise.  The main difference was that I wouldn’t help them.

One student was not about to be put off.  She kept asking me to check her work.  Now this is a student who was writing her 14th essay for me.  I knew, really knew, that she didn’t really need my help. I had her previous 13 papers in her portfolio in the back room.  Every time she asked for help I referred her to her Tools folder, or the rubric, or the book, or a classmate.  Still, she kept asking questions that I knew she knew the answer to.

I finally stopped her and asked if she knew how hard it was for me not to help her?  Everybody thinks that the teacher is there to guide and help students, but the teacher is also there to help students do it themselves.  Once the how-to-do-it-ive-ness has been established, the teacher needs to step back and let the students do it.  I think they had noticed by now, as it was the end of the year, that I am both nosy and bossy.  I find it very, very difficult not to look over their shoulders and point out places where they could be doing it the way I would be doing it, even when there is no guarantee that their way isn’t better.  It is why I make myself sit at my desk and often knit or write blog entries until one of them needs help.

The student looked at me and said, “So, you are kind of like training wheels?”  Yes.  I am the human equivalent of training wheels.  My job is to make myself superfluous.  Then I asked her if she ever considered that the training wheels might miss the bike.

There was a moment of reflective silence in the room.

Week 34 – Against All Odds: A 5th Grade Essay

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Here is the final paper that I will post from this essay prompt.

This is a 5th grade paper. In it this young writer reviews the novel Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell. His thesis is basic which is to tell his reader about the book and his opinion of it. As of yet, he comes to no profound understandings, but he gets it right and pulls out the important concepts in an order that is clear and helpful to his reader.

Against All Odds 1
Against All Odds 2
Against All Odds 3

I show you this paper because it is an example of a student turning a corner. He isn’t burning through the boring yet, but he is starting to make it his own. For example, his organizational structure improves with every paper. The ideas he pulls out are strong, interesting ones, and he is taking some risks with word choice which are brave.

I have to admit that this is a novel I have never enjoyed. However, after reading his paper, I revisited the story and through his eyes, I found a new appreciation for it. He changed my mind, and that is the mark of powerful writing.

Week 34 – The Underground Hero: A 6th Grade Essay

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Another review essay, this one is on the novel Dodger by Terry Pratchett. Pratchett is a great favorite in my classroom. I’m thrilled about this because even his youth fiction is complicated and requires real concentration from his readers.

This writer immediately picks up on the perverse nature of what it means to be a “hero”. Believable heroes are never fully convinced that he (or she) really is one. This writer highlights the premise that a real hero is often the product of a moment.

The Underground Hero 1
The Underground Hero 2a
The Underground Hero 3
The Underground Hero 4
I have to say that I really love this paper. The writer understands what is important in the novel and presents it clearly and with such strong word choice. Also, I’m pleased with how he is moving his organizational structure to accommodate his readers. Finally, it is unusual for me to agree so completely with one of my writers, but as I read his paper, I found myself saying, “Yup, yup, yup,” and nodding along as I read. I watched him struggle with this paper, but the end product is so definitely worth it.

Week 34 – A Desert Trip: A 6th Grade Essay

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An essay on Holes by one of our 6th graders. She asserts to us here that she has grown out of this level of reading, and at the same time, she is able to see the merits of the novel.

A Desert Trip
A Desert Trip 2
A Desert Trip 3

This writer started off writing essays in a verbose manner. As you can see, she is now working on being succinct. The pendulum swings for writers, and you can see how she is begins to understand how answering readers questions helps her to decide how fulsome to be as a writer.

However, no matter how concise, her voice comes through loud and clear. This writer has a chatty tone which I love. You get the feeling that you are discussing the book over coffee and cake.

Week 34 – The Sly Creation: A 6th Grade Essay

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Here is the offering of a student who read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?  This student gets right to the point of the book, i.e., what does it mean to be human?  It’s a grand philosophical question, and one that, clearly, our students can grapple with in middle school.

The Sly Creation 1
The Sly Creation 2
The Sly Creation 3
The Sly Creation 4

To some extent he runs out of steam when he gets to his conclusion paragraph, but this only slightly diminishes the power of his thesis.

I feel that this student really turned a corner with this paper. It seems to me that he has “burned through the boring” of essay writing and is making the writing his own. He has become a writer of non-fiction in his own right.

Week 33 – Student C’s Offering

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Here is another student’s response to the compare and contrast prompt.

This student worked extremely hard on this paper. His willingness to do revision after revision, to listen to those who could help him, and the choices he ultimately made to improve his paper make me so very proud of him. Notice the green underlining on the outline. He never lost patience when I asked him to go back and answer reader questions. Notice the back of the third draft. He was still working on hooks and introductory thoughts. This child knows how to work. And he did so diligently, coming up with a product he can be proud of. I know I’m proud of him.

The contrast brainstorm:
maniac artemis contrast

The contrast brainstorm:
maniac artemis contrast:

The outline:
maniac artemis outline 1
maniac artemis outline 2
maniac artemis outline 3
maniac artemis outline 4

The first draft:
maniac artemis 1st 1

The second draft:
maniac artemis 2nd 1
maniac artemis 2nd 2

The third draft:
maniac artemis 3rd 1
maniac artemis 3rd 2
maniac artemis 3rd 3

PSR: For some reason we can’t find it.

The fourth draft:
maniac artemis 4th 1
maniac artemis 4th 2

And the Graded Rubric:
maniac artemis final rubric

Week 32 – Student B’s Offering

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I’ve uploaded more student papers.  This student wrote his compare and contrast paper on Sherlock Holmes and Scrooge.  It has the same rubric as before.

Let’s see what he’s done.

sherscrooge compare

And the contrast brainstorm:
sherscrooge contrast

Then the plot development chart. For some reason we are missing one of the plots.
sherscrooge plot chart

Then the outline. Notice that he has chosen to outline conclusion directly after introduction.
sherscrooge outline 1
sherscrooge outline 2
sherscrooge outline 3

Then the first draft:
sherscrooge 1st 1
sherscrooge 1st 2
sherscrooge 1st 3

Then the second draft:
sherscrooge 2nd 1
sherscrooge 2nd 2
And for some reason we are missing the final page…

Then the third draft:
sherscrooge 3rd 1
sherscrooge 3rd 2
sherscrooge 3rd 3

Then the Personal Skills Record:
sherscrooge PSR 1
sherscrooge PSR 2

Then the final draft:
sherscrooge 4th 1
sherscrooge 4th 2
sherscrooge 4th 3

And finally, the Rubric with the final grade:
sherscrooge final rubric

And there it is! A job well done. A paper I think most high school students would be proud of.