On my campus, my principal stresses the importance of great writing. As a former senior English teacher, my students can attest to you, how much I stressed the value of active writing over passive writing. I forbade the following "To Be" verbs from their essays: am, is are, was, were, be, being, been, became, become, seems appears and got. THEY HATED ME...at first! But over time, I had them slinging essays and poetry books like it was nothing...all without "to be" verbs! When they graduated--AND as this Facebook post will attest to--they knew the power of writing concise and with direct/active purpose:
Though they complained, I always wrote with my students following all the rules I assigned. I did it to keep my edge, to model and to show them that I wouldn't ask them to do anything that I wouldn't do myself. There's an article titled "Do You Write with your Students?"
Here's a wonderful graphic, courtesy of Edutopia, that clearly breaks down the components of writing:
I've included an excerpt from Brian Szatbnik:
P = Purpose
Every strong essay had an unwavering commitment to the purpose. Weak essays deviated from purpose, often veering down the path of plot summary. I now have students underline and record the verbs of the prompt (analyze the relationship, connect the devices, distinguish between) to fully grasp their purpose. Every sentence written must relate to it.
O = Organization
The best essays have a system of organization. They possess a deliberate and pre-ordained plan of progress. Their body paragraphs develop in one of the following ways:
Chronologically: from the beginning of the piece to the end.
Cause and effect: showing the techniques an author used and the effects they created.
General to specific: look broadly through a telescope, then focus under a microscope, noticing the small details contributing to the big picture.
Compare and contrast: start with what unites works and move to appreciating differences between them.
E = Evidence
Weak essays make claims -- and that's it. They leave the reader unfulfilled because they neglect the evidence needed to substantiate those claims. Well-written essays have an abundance of evidence in their body paragraphs. Have students list all evidence before they write.
T = Thesis (with insight)
Repeating the prompt is the refuge of students that lack either originality or confidence. They are afraid that their opinion is wrong, so they just state what's given. To avoid this, I challenge students to answer the question "with insight." My challenge is asking them what they infer, what they perceive. Modeling is essential, and here's a good example of the difference:
It's never to young, to push the value of effective writing. I believe it's a grave disconnect this generation has with the past. I will be happy when grammar school returns...the sometimes boring, but needed attention devoted to syntax.
Who wants to read a blog-post with a fortune of errors? And what person doesn't shake in their boots when they receive an email so precise in syntax, they immediately know the author "meant business?" Lol! That's a shout out to my mother, who encouraged me to make my pen my sword instead of my fists! Love you, Mama! I believe she borrowed that phrase from someone else!
Below is a celebratory video that I created for our 4th graders that won the campus essay contest. Congratulations!!