Entries from September 2010 ↓

What a difference an “L” makes

Just wondering if this is one of those “15 things.”

Source: Field Notes from NBC News. Photo credit: Lee MacMillan.

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Stop by every 1st, 3rd, and 5th Wednesday for a peek into the world of spelling, punctuation, or grammar gone wrong!

Helping your K-2nd grader with writing

I’m sure it’s no secret to you that children develop at different rates. One child possesses remarkable fine-motor skills, yet she struggles to speak a coherent sentence. Another talks circles around his siblings, but his handwriting leaves much to be desired.

This disparity is often more obvious during the primary years, when most children are either emerging writers with little or no ability to write or beginning writers who are developing early writing skills.

Let Go of Expectations . . . and Stress

Because fine-motor skills vary from child to child, don’t be distressed if your youngster has a hard time holding a pencil correctly, writing on a line, forming letters and words, or demonstrating neat penmanship.

These early elementary years—typically kindergarten through third grade—produce a great deal of growth in most children, but if your little one doesn’t seem to be following the pack, take a deep breath and accept that it’s okay.

Meanwhile, make sure your writing time is spent together, and that you build instruction from your child’s own efforts rather than from artificial expectations. For example, if he’s great at telling stories, but cries buckets if you make him write anything down himself, let him dictate to you as you write his words.

My youngest child definitely had his own timetable. He had the hardest time with any writing-related activity, so most of our “writing” time happened orally, with me doing the writing as he narrated. The good news is that with much mommy patience and perseverence, he eventually did “get” it.

Embrace Repetition and Routine

Have you ever noticed that your littles never tire of reading the same book or singing the same songs over and over and over again? It’s one of the main ways children absorb information, and the sooner we accept that, the more likely learning will take place.

Repetition, routine, and consistency play a major part in nurturing young writers. Since primary-age children thrive in this environment, you may have to sideline your own fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants tendencies as you devote yourself to keeping a schedule, building bit by bit on their emerging skills, and nurturing your young writers in the way they learn best. Someday you may be able to let spontaneity reign once again, but until then, routine is your friend!

Focus on Age-Appropriate K-2 Writing Skills

Too often, parents neglect teaching children how to think about and plan a story. They just assign it. Instead, give your young children tools to experience success as they develop the ability to write by teaching them to brainstorm; plan a beginning, middle, and end; and then write or dictate the story.

Typical Progression

Take care not to jump into advanced writing too soon. Instead, watch for and encourage this progression in your youngsters:

  1. Writing a letter, word, or group of words on their project according to their ability.
  2. Writing a complete sentence.
  3. Understanding the concept of a paragraph.

How Much and How Often?

  • At this age, it’s enough to devote 3 days a week to the writing process.
  • Spend 15-30 minutes max per day on writing activities, depending on age and attention span.
  • Expect your child to write 5- to 7-sentence stories. A more articulate child may show interest and inclination to write longer pieces—and that’s great. Just don’t force it. Make sure your children crawl before they walk!

Be an Involved Parent

Children cannot learn to write on their own. A parent who participates one-on-one with her child inspires success! To effectively develop basic writing skills, your child needs some important things from you:

  • Your presence
  • Your example
  • Your encouragement
  • Your daily guidance

Teaching your young child to love words and writing—or even the idea of writing—comes from purposeful instruction in a fairly structured environment. Your child may not absorb everything you say and do. He may not exhibit the skills your friends’ kids exhibit. And he may alternately drive you crazy and break your heart with his moans, groans, and tears.

Just remember that this is springtime for your little one, where you’ll see both subtle growth and explosions of learning. Take your time to nurture with patient care, and your budding writer will bloom and blossom in time.

Helping your 3rd-5th grader with writing
Helping your 5th-8th grader with writing
Helping your high schooler with writing

Copyright 2010 © Kim Kautzer. All rights reserved.

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

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WriteShop Primary is the perfect way to gently introduce writing skills to young children using repetition, routine, pre-writing games and activities, crafts, and storybooks. Perfect for most children in grades K-3. For help choosing a starting level, visit this link.

This is not butter

Wow. Sure had ME fooled!

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Stop by every 1st, 3rd, and 5th Wednesday for a peek into the world of spelling, punctuation, or grammar gone wrong!

Plagiarism: Committing literary theft

 

You sit down to grade a stack of essays. As you read through one particular paper, it occurs to you that the information seems familiar—so familiar, in fact, that you recognize it as the text from an Internet article you yourself printed out in preparation for another writing class. When you look up the article and compare it with this student’s paper, you’re shocked to discover they are identical.

Defining Plagiarism

The term plagiarism might be relatively new to your students, but cheating is not. When it comes to writing, especially in a formal setting, these two words mean the same thing. The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines plagiarizing as:

  1. Stealing and passing off (the ideas or words of another) as one’s own.
  2. Using (another’s production) without crediting the source.
  3. Committing literary theft.
  4. Presenting as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source.

Establishing a Policy

Whether you homeschool one student, tutor several, or teach creative writing or English classes, it’s wise to establish and distribute a policy on plagiarism. Here’s an example:

Plagiarism is the illegitimate use of another person’s words and/or ideas without giving appropriate credit to the original source. Such attempts to copy someone else’s work and call it your own is a very serious offense that will not be tolerated and will have significant consequences. All work done for this class must be your own original composition. When writing, you are required to properly cite any source you use—published or unpublished, from a book or from the Internet. Failure to do so will result in a zero grade for the assignment.

Reinforcing the Rules

Stand firm regarding plagiarism. In any other class setting—whether in a public or private high school, college, or even the workplace—plagiarizing an essay to the extent that our hypothetical student has done will result in an instant F on the assignment, disenrollment from the class, and/or institutional disciplinary measures.

Because most educational institutions have a zero-tolerance policy for plagiarism, submitting a plagiarized essay like this could, at best, result in a lower grade, or at worst, cost the student a scholarship or expulsion over something he may have thought was “no big deal.”

It’s so important to drill into your students that trying to save a few hours’ worth of work by cutting and pasting a two-page essay from the Internet is just not worth the consequences.

Copyright 2010 © Kim Kautzer. All rights reserved.

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

Avoiding common usage errors in the English language

Alexis Bonari is joining me today as a guest blogger here at In Our Write Minds. Today, Alexis shares some helpful tips on commonly confused—and misused—words.

It’s difficult for any teacher to contradict the overwhelming number of usage errors in everyday writing, but English students should be taught how to discern correct from incorrect word usage.

Errors from billboards, magazine articles, and even television captions can have a profound effect on a child’s understanding of the English language.

The following are some of the most common usage errors found in today’s written communication, so help your students identify the mistakes to keep them out of their own writing.

Went vs. Gone

Many errors involving this pair of words include “have went,” which is incorrect. The word “went” should never be used in conjunction with “have.” If you need to communicate a past-tense version of “go” with the word “have,” the correct choice is the past participle: “have gone.”

Than vs. Then

When comparing two different things, people, or ideas, the word “than” is useful. For example, you could say, “Those apples are riper than the peaches.” A comparison should not involve the word “then,” which is used to specify time or sequence. A correct use of this word would be “She peeled the apples first, then the peaches.”

Have vs. Of

The phrases “should of,” “could of,” and “would of” are always incorrect. The word “of” is a preposition that often indicates the relationship of a part to a whole, as in “Grandma ate the last piece of pie.” In order to make the incorrect phrases above correct, the word “have” should be substituted for “of”: should have, could have, would have.

Loose vs. Lose

Learning the difference between these two words is relatively simple: “loose” is an adjective and “lose” is a verb. The former describes something, as in “He didn’t like to wear loose clothing when playing tennis.” The latter is used as a way to convey a sense of action, so you could say, “They always lose when they play Monopoly.”

Fewer vs. Less

One way to decide which of these words is appropriate is to figure out whether or not the items being described are countable. With tangible, countable items, the word “fewer” should be used, as in “There were fewer girls than boys at the party.” When describing a more abstract concept, use “less.” For example, “He was less apprehensive about his interview once he had taken a few deep breaths.”

Bio: Alexis Bonari is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She is currently a resident blogger at First in Education. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.

Photo: Public Domain

Costume Closet: Fun for young writers

Writing doesn’t have to be “all work and no play.” By adding a dose of fun to your child’s writing time, you can actually turn an assignment into an eagerly anticipated experience!

Create a Costume Closet

Some children are delighted with the idea of theatre and acting. They might enjoy their writing time a bit more if they can dress up as their main character.

If your child likes this idea, assemble a Costume Closet or other place such as a suitcase or laundry basket.

Costume Accessory Ideas

  • Shirt and dresses
  • Suit jackets, vests, and trench coats
  • Funny shoes
  • Neckties and bowties
  • Shawls, scarves, and feather boas
  • Costume jewelry and eyeglass frames
  • Hats and wigs
  • Animal costumes or headbands
  • Bits and pieces from old costumes such as a cowboy hat and holster, nurse’s cap and toy stethoscope, or eye patch

To find items to add to your Costume Closet, you and your child can visit some yard sales together, take a trip to a thrift store, or raid Grandma’s closet.

When your child is ready to work on his story, encourage him to choose several accessories and dress up like his character while he writes. Your costume closet might also help inspire him to create new characters. Then sit back and watch as writing time becomes an adventure!

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“Costume Closet” is just one of the many fun and creative activities WriteShop Junior will use to add spark to writing at the elementary level. This game appears in WriteShop Junior Book D, which is scheduled for release in Spring 2011.

In generaral need of spell check

In generaral, I hope his concrete work is better than his spelling.

And by the way—are you in the market for a new “dryway”?

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Stop by every 1st, 3rd, and 5th Wednesday for a peek into the world of spelling, punctuation, or grammar gone wrong!

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