Slice of Life: Figuring out our purpose

Purpose matters.  It motivates and directs.  I try to remember that. Perhaps the biggest challenge is not adhering to our purpose but figuring it out.

Our classroom blogging is writing for writing sake. It is 100% student driven. This writing, the kind that Ralph Fletcher calls “greenbelt” writing, may not be perfect. The audience is other kids. Not adults. This is by design.  The purpose is joy based writing. that tell story, give information, and share ideas that matter to other kids.

Enter student blogging that is shared with the world and   This year we have started a new student blog. Open to multiage writers afterschool. The topics are still chosen by students, but the content is now linked to the school’s website read by adults.  And with that, my purpose as a teacher changes. I now must seriously address grammar and capitalization slip-ups. An area I typically have no problem overlooking in favor of content and the desire to inspire young writers write.

Today, I conferred with a 5th grader about her fiction piece. A potential series of posts called, To be continued… The title says a lot. It’s funny and full of suspense.  I want to publish it, but first a little work around capitalization.  She started capitalizing the word “I” but then stops. I assume this is an oversight, so I mention it as a simple editorial reminder. And with that, I get a lesson.

“You always capitalize I? I thought it was just the first one.”

Whoa!  This student, one I’d lay money on getting an advanced score on any test. didn’t know to authentically use this straightforward writing rule.  One I know she’s been taught every year.

What does this mean for me a writing teacher?

We must write a lot to learn the rules.
To write a lot, we must want to write.
To want to write, we must enjoy it.
To enjoy it, we need to feel good about what we write.
To feel good about what we write, choice in the subject and minimal critique are necessary.
But at some point, the rules of writing need to be upheld.
When is that time?
When the audience changes? Sooner?

I go back to what I hold in my core. Each child is at a different place along the writing road. It is my purpose to note where they are and anticipate the upcoming bend in the road.

Always a journey for the writer and the teacher.






6 thoughts on “Slice of Life: Figuring out our purpose

  1. We’ve struggled a bit with these same things. In October, at TC’s Saturday Reunion, a presenter used the phrase, “ warm demander.” She urged us to warmly demand some of the grammar and conventions work we should be expecting of kids. It’s kind of changed my approach to these common slip ups. I’ve found, for the most part, that kids attenuate the quick lessons or reminders. I bet this fifth grader from this piece will now capitalize all of her Is.

  2. I feel the same way about vowels (so many kids don’t know which letters are vowels) and a sentence (they don’t really know what makes a sentence). They need to be more than rules – they need to have purpose and meaning. That’s when we use them (and yes, break them -Kevin) effectively. Hope to read this piece – the title hooked me!!

    • I had a similar experience when I taught haikus to my students. They didn’t know what syllable were. On our desire to teach big sometimes we over look the small details.

  3. I find that when I use blogging to look at grammar, the student usually cares more and is more willing to listen and learn. Using authentic writing is the best way to teach grammar rules. And when you do it through authentic conversations rather than with a red pen, the learning sticks.

  4. You are so right about each learner being at a different place on their journey. As teachers we are able to read kid writing without conventions. It helps to remind the children that not everyone is a teacher and spelling and punctuation are there to help the reader. The young writers usually care and wish to learn.

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