A page from my continued experiments with teaching writing to children- the more disadvantaged the better. It tells me just how robust my theories are!!! Like I tell teachers the proof of the pudding is in the eating. If you do the right thing, it must give you instant results.
My 8th graders from the economically disadvantaged segment are keen learners. Subbing for a teacher I have 2 one hour periods on Monday and two days later with them. My target is to make them write better through grammar instruction.
So we begin with adverbs and use their own simple examples to understand it. Example: I write/ run how? They learn new words like meticulously,breathlessly and tirelessly.
If “how” was the question word for manner, I ask, then, what question words would they use to get adverbs of place and time? That’s easy.
Now ask these questions, and what answers do you get? Here,there, everywhere and now, then, immediately, tomorrow!
We then look at adverbs of condition, concession and reason. Children make tons of own sentences they are meant to roll off their tongues at speed! So we learn to repeat them at good speed.
So now they know questions what if? Although what? And why? I use the connectives ‘if’ , ‘although’ and ‘because’ to introduce the subordinate clauses.
Because I was tired…does it give complete info? No miss.
How about ‘although I was up early…? ‘ No miss it is incomplete.
How about ‘I was late to class’ ? That’s
complete miss. And ‘I went to sleep’ ? That is also complete. This is a main clause. It needs no help.
So we looked at all conjunctions that precede or signal the coming of a subordinate clause.
Then they made sentences with a main clause and two subordinate clauses and inserted compound adjectives and adverbs.
They create stunning sentences to read aloud.
Example: I went joyously swimming in the sapphire blue , deep and mighty Pacific Ocean where I saw multi-hued, miniature fish when I went leisurely for a long summer holiday. Hurrah.
Teachers, you give them vocabulary, and they will use them. Trust me.
They were so proud of their sentences.
Two days later, I made 8A teach 8B. The students of 8B had gone on a field trip and were not with me on Monday. They did the same lesson and I sat down comfortably and watched!!!
They asked questions on clauses. The simple definition was – it has a verb. A phrase does not. For example , in the morning, for a long time, after a huge breakfast.., are phrases. Then, they made their own phrases.
We looked at prepositional, noun and adjectival clauses sitting like a nest of boxes.
We connected descriptions they gave of the “tree” to genres and moods in settings in literature. An ‘old withered leafless tree’ vs a ‘bird filled, verdant, supple tree’ would tell different stories!!! Total alertness from all.
Before that, we had used a box to look at how the cat changes positions in, on, under, beside the box, when that teeny tiny word called the preposition changes. Powerful little word eh? I say.
In two hours, I had empowered my children to write, taught them some complicated grammar and introduced settings in literature! If I were their teacher I would revisit this theoretically in oral and in practical writing for the whole year so that they take it to their graves!
Regular teachers have 150 hours. So no excuses please. When you use my series ‘Language with Ease’ it allows you to do this blindly and mechanically over several years because I have laid it out for you. Schools who use the series report wild success like all the grade 2s picking out non finite verbs (Gerunds, participles infinitives) and telling you they are not verbs without labelling them. A mistake even textbooks make!
So, do take the leap of faith in the coming year and bask in the success of your kids. Change your system. Do Language with Ease. Write to: email@example.com