I’m really excited because this week I’m scheduled to guest teach a writing class for fourth graders. My goal is to unteach some of the bad habits these students have learned over the years with Power Writing.
Don’t get me wrong; I think Power Writing has it’s place as an introductory method of illustrating the parts of a paragraph. But when, as a 7th grade Language Arts teacher, almost every student would hand in an essay that ended with, “In conclusion, I think that…” I just about took my flair pen and embedded it in my retina. Topic sentences don’t always have to be at the beginning of a paragraph, and what happened to concluding sentences providing one last piece of information – one last, new image for the reader to consider? How do students transition from the blocky essays of my 7th graders to the fluid, interesting examples one hears on NPR? Somewhere, students have to unlearn those bad habits taught in elementary classrooms with programs such as Power Writing, and it might as well start with me.
BACKGROUND: Mrs. P., their teacher, wants her students to write a paragraph on something for which they are thankful so that she can put up her Thanksgiving bulletin board in the hallway in time for Parent/Teacher conferences. Got it. Good to have a reason for the lesson.
TECHNIQUE: Subversion. They’ll never know what hit ’em.
PLAN: This week during regular journaling time, students are writing a list of things they like. Not what they are thankful for, but what they like. This will serve as their idea list for Thursday. On Thursday, I will come in and perform a Writing Think Aloud for them as I write about something I’m thankful for. I will not start with, “I am thankful for my mom and dad for three reasons. First…” Instead, I plan on telling them a story, giving them sensory details and maybe even some dialogue, using strong verbs and avoiding ‘be.’ They will hear how I vacillate with my word choices and sentence structures. They will witness how entire sentences are deleted and replaced without hurt feelings. And then when I finally hit them with the topic sentence of what I’m thankful for at the end of the paragraph, all that narrative tension will find release.
Try it. Join me in fighting the bad habits taught to students everywhere by the evil Power Writing Curriculum!