Saturday, March 15, 2014

Saturday Sayings: It Won't Matter



An elementary ed major from a local community college spent this last week in my room.  Being the opinionated teacher that I am, we covered numerous topics when the children weren't around.  I probably gave her more to think about than she had bargained for when assigned 30 hours in a classroom.  I brought up this idea of what teachers should focus on the most in their students' writing.  I probably sound like a broken record for those who read my blog often, but it was a new one for her and from what I can tell, is a topic that current classroom teachers need to ponder as well.

We talked about how easy it is to notice the surface level stuff.  Like Regie says, those things are distracting in a glaring sort of way, beckoning the teacher's attention.  It's easy to make a beeline for them.  All the while, ideas and content are bypassed.  I'll admit it's harder to dig deeper into a piece and find a way to nudge the writer towards expressing their ideas better.  

What makes a piece of writing proficient?  What makes it something worth reading?  I've had discussions with teachers who honestly want to know if the writing in their hands is proficient.  Most often, their criteria of proficiency depends on whether they see capitals, periods, and spacing.  I want them to raise the level of their expectations, realign their parameters, and consider this question.  Who cares if their conventions are perfect if it's not something worth reading?  

I told this young future teacher that the writers in my room will focus on what I focus on.  If my vision of proficiency hinges on conventions, then that's what they will produce, and most likely at the expense of what makes their writing really worth reading.  It's not that the other things aren't important.  Like Regie, I believe there's a time and place for them.  They are certainly part of what, in the end, will make their writing even more inviting, but without great content, it won't matter.


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16 comments:

  1. Oh, good one! You are so right - the misspelled words, no caps, no periods - those are the things that I notice right away. And it's hard not to take that pretty colored pen and mark those!
    But the harder job is looking past those {I think harder because it requires more thinking on my part!} - and noticing that clever sentence or interesting detail - and marking those!
    Thanks for the reminder - and the idea that what's important to me - my focus, becomes their focus.

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    1. Sara, you're right. It definitely requires more thinking on our part. It's so much easier to focus on the surface stuff.

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  2. Excellent! Surface stuff is easy, right? You're so so wise and that person is blessed to have gotten to watch you in action and take notes!

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    1. Barbara, thank you. I'm sure she'll need to experience these things for herself, but wouldn't it be great if she knew more about great teaching than I did when I first started?

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  3. Sounds like an educational week! I think people who want to be teachers need this time in the classroom!

    Tara
    The Math Maniac

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    1. Tara, 30 concentrated hours from Monday morning till Friday afternoon seemed like a perfect amount of time to get a good peek at how a classroom operates.

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  4. Your writing philosophy and mine are the same, Tammy!

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    1. Connie, I'm not surprised one bit. :)

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  5. I agree with you wholeheartedly. Especially when I taught Kinder, I'd get comments from colleagues like: why did you hang those up to display the handwriting is terrible. And I'd tell them, did you read it?

    NotJustChild'sPlay

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    1. Miss Trayers, and as you know, kindergarten kids can do so much more than capitals, periods, and spacing. I'm sure you were great with them!

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  6. I may be borrowing this line from you- Who cares if their conventions are perfect if it's not something worth reading? That sums it up quite neatly! Your visitor was blessed indeed to have been in your classroom for a week!
    Lori
    Conversations in Literacy

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    1. Lori, thank you and please borrow away. As you know, there are just more critical things to focus on first.

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  7. Bravo, Tammy! As a writer myself, and as a teacher of writing (to adults mostly but still...) I am so happy to hear that you focus on content. Not only is it the most important element of writing, I think it's far more encouraging to writers to hear that their ideas are good, or to at least discuss their ideas, then to be hen-pecked over every little punctuation, spelling, or grammar issue. Those things can be fixed so much more easily!

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    1. Susanna, You make a great point. When others compliment my writing ideas, I feel like a real writer. I doubt the same would happen if they liked my spelling and punctuation.

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  8. Excellent reminder, Tammy. Even as an experience teacher I sometimes forget how important it is to look deeper.
    BTW, it struck me that the first part of the quote (It's easy to get distracted and focus on everything) actually applies to me in my own life. Especially when I'm at the computer. I have a heck of a time staying focused!! Haha.
    Grade ONEderful

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    1. Barb, yes even those of us who are experienced can work on this. I sure can. What will help this particular writer the most? That's not always an easy question to tackle. (Computers are for sure distracting.) :)

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