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#1 momandsam

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Posted 23 September 2016 - 02:46 PM

My 12 year old (6th grade) is a very talented writer in his free time.  He loves to write very long and elaborate stories with great ideas, word choice, and sentence fluency.  He is very passionate about his writing.  But when it comes to writing paragraphs or essays, we butt heads.  I offer suggestions and he takes is personally and does not want to make any revisions. 

 

I am looking for feedback on his writing to see if I am being too picky or if it's really something he should work on.  I asked him to write a "how-to" paragraph.  The main areas of focus is a good topic sentence, detail sentences, conclusion sentence, and transition words.  I eventually got him to change the topic sentence, but I will put his original sentence with his writing.

 

This is my paragraph on how to test your blood sugar.  Step one: you need to wash your hands.  It is important to do so for accurate results.  The supplies you will need is a glucose reader, or meter for short, a test strip, and a poker.  First, you will need to insert the strip into the meter, the flat side going in.  Then, lay the poker against a chosen finger pad. Make sure it's not on the fingernail side.  Press the button.  Yipe!  If there is not enough blood, gently squeeze your finger to get some more out.  After that, put the blood on the tip of the strip.  Finally, wait five seconds and you will receive your result on the meter.  Happy testing!

 

The revised topic sentence with my help is "Testing your blood sugar is a simple routine" but he is unhappy with it.  I wanted him to work on a conclusion sentence, but he is adamant that "happy testing" is a good conclusion and refuses to add/change anything. Should I just let it go and continue to work on it with other paragraphs?  It may be that the style of a how-to paragraph is throwing him off a bit?

 

Thanks for any advice!



#2 Chrysalis Academy

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Posted 23 September 2016 - 04:26 PM

LOL-Congratulations, you have a writer! This is so typical of kids who are writers, who see themselves as writers, and who have a strong writing voice.  They know what they want to say, and how they want to say it, and they don't want to hear otherwise.  I have two kids like this, so I can commiserate, but truly it's a nice problem to have - these kids don't have trouble getting words down on paper, at least.

 

What your son is missing is a good grasp of audience and purpose, and choosing the appropriate voice to match the audience and purpose.  He needs to understand that there are conventions for academic writing - the chief one is that you don't insert yourself into your writing.  "This is my paragraph" is a no no for this reason (among others), as is making a direct address to your reader (Happy testing!)  Many writing teachers will also say to avoid the 2nd person (you) for the same reason - it's inappropriately informal for academic writing.  

 

You'll have to think about how this message will get through to him best.  Will he respond to being told that this kind of beginning and ending make his otherwise good writing sound immature, like it's written by a child? Or will he be able to grasp a discussion about audience and purpose, and understand that for some kinds of informal writing, his tone is fine, but not for an academic paper?  

 

So no, you aren't being picky, you are trying to teach him the appropriate conventions of academic writing.  Are you using any kind of curriculum or writing book? If so, it probably addresses audience and purpose, voice, etc. - this might be a good time to flip to that lesson!  Writing Strands can be a good tool for a kid who is a natural writer but who doesn't take direction well from a parent - it teaches these conventions, but it is directed to the kid.  Level 4 might be about right for him. The book from the same publishers, Evaluating Writing, is helpful for you to know what kind of feedback to give him.

 

If you do ever decide to sign him up for an online writing class, I'd suggest Bravewriter - they do a great job of respecting the voice of the young writer, while teaching them to use appropriate conventions for academic writing.  This wouldn't be for a couple of years, but I could see him thriving in the Kidswrite Intermediate class in around 8th grade.

 

This is probably something he will grow out of with maturity naturally, to some extent. But you are right to point this out to him.  I wouldn't necessarily insist that he keep changing this paragraph, if he's really done with it, but I would keep hammering on this point in his upcoming writing assignments.  


Edited by Chrysalis Academy, 23 September 2016 - 04:28 PM.

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#3 momandsam

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Posted 23 September 2016 - 06:52 PM

Thank you for your reply.  This is our second year of homeschooling.  Last year we tried IEW and he hated it.  He didn't like the formula style.  We aren't using a curriculum right now. I would like him to master the basics of a good paragraph using different styles (persuasive, expository, narrative, summary, etc) while focusing on word choice, sentence variety, etc.  Once he has that down well, he can work on writing multiple paragraph essays.  

 

I completely agree that he is missing the audience and purpose of this paragraph.  I may need to change my plan a bit in what to teach.  Both of my boys seem to resist me during writing.  I may need to step out of the picture and have them use something more independent?  I have Essentials in Writing and wonder if I should just try that?  I will also look into Writing Strands! 

 

 


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#4 freesia

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Posted 23 September 2016 - 07:17 PM

I don't think another curriculum will help.  It is more of an attitude thing. With my ds, I would have him write it my way, as well.  In other words, I'd recognize that he likes the way he wrote it and would accept it, but also require another version written in a more formal voice.  If it's typed on a computer, it's an easy fix.  Somehow, accepting his version allowed him to express himself, or something. He did grow out of it.

 

But, to be completely and utterly honest, he writes better for other people.  I've done outsourced classes (part of 9th and this year in 11th) and had a friend grade his papers (last year--I graded her sons).  If my friend said something was too informal, he didn't argue, he laughed and agreed. Sigh.  Do you have any friends who will do that for you?


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#5 freesia

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Posted 23 September 2016 - 07:18 PM

Oh, and another idea is to make a checklist for him --IEW style, but have on it "language appropriate  for assignment"(and make sure you are clear upfront what that is). 


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#6 Chrysalis Academy

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Posted 24 September 2016 - 09:44 AM

I haven't used either IEW or EIW but I am not surprised he didn't like the former. I think this kind of kid really hates formulaic writing programs.  I don't think you absolutely need a writing program: I've tried many and have been most successful just teaching it myself.  But sometimes it can be helpful for the kid to "hear" from a different person - someone other than you - that their voice/tone is not appropriate for academic writing. Particularly if they aren't open to feedback from you. I had just picked up Writing Strands 4 to add a little variety to my 5th grader's writing assignments, and I noticed a pretty comprehensive discussion of this issue right at the beginning, which is why I thought you might like it. Some of the assignments in it are really good, all about organizing sentences within a paragraph and writing different kinds of paragraphs.  It's not perfect, and I won't use all the lessons, but it does have some value for me.  Essay Voyage from MCT also does a good job talking about appropriate voice for academic writing, and might be good to read through together once he's at the essay stage.  I didn't like the assignments in that book, but the discussion of how to put together an essay was great, and it had some really good sample essays.


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#7 bluebonnetgirl

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Posted 24 September 2016 - 01:48 PM

I can commiserate with you momandsam. My 8th grade DS had a process paragraph to write this week for an outsourced format writing class (basically a how to do paragraph. He decided to write a process paragraph on how to have a stress free trip to Disney, It started like this: (please don't quote)

"Although it might seem complicated to plan a stress-free trip to "The Happiest Place on Earth", a seasoned Disney traveler can simplify it in five easy steps. First things first, when do I leave for Disneyland; I have always left late in the evening around 6:30 to 8:30, so when you get there, you can have fun at the Downtown Disney District for an hour, which costs nothing to enter. You have many choices on where to stay; I prefer one of the Disneyland Hotels, but if you're a save-a-penny-anytime-you-can type of guy, stay at one of the cheaper hotels around the area called "Good Neighbor" hotels. If you plan....."


I cringed and told his this is wayyyyy too casual, like he is chatting with a friend. I referred him back to the book (Jenson's Format Writing) for style.


I also told him he needs to tell his readers this is Disney, since not everyone thinks or knows Disney is the happiest place on earth, as DS tends to assume his readers feel and know his thoughts.


Even though I am outsourcing writing, I am still getting pulled into helping him edit his creations. I knew from first glance that this was not going to fly, that the teacher was going to be looking for the paragraph to be written in the third person, and be more business like, versus having a little chat with your best friend. My DS in his defense said that he has read travel books and travel blogs and his style is more common and preferable to read. He may be right, but for an academic format writing class, I think he is going to have to make some adjustments. He too has no problem finding the words to say, he just needs to edit his superfluous words, eliminate run on sentences and change his chatty tone.


I have hesitated putting him in IEW for this very reason, (he is creative
and has a voice and dislikes having to conform to someone else's formula), and although he is taking Format Writing this year for 8th grade, I will likely lean toward something that allows him a bit more creativity when he hits high school


Please don't quote my post.

Edited by bluebonnetgirl, 24 September 2016 - 02:34 PM.

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#8 chocolate-chip chooky

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Posted 25 September 2016 - 04:56 PM

My daughter (10) really benefited from analysing and 'correcting' other people's essays.

 

I just found some online done by kids around her age and let her at it with a pen, circling words that were too informal, circling anything in first person, circling words that are repeated too often, or noting ideas for better topic sentences etc.

 

This really helped. She got to learn some of these key ideas of academic writing without it being a criticism of her own work. 


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#9 Pen

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Posted 25 September 2016 - 07:17 PM

I like his paragraph! It has energy and feeling to it.   

 

I think if you want him to write a more academic paper start giving him some more interesting academic topics.  But he is a child.  I wonder if he could come up with a better first sentence if he imagined an audience of kids who have just discovered they have to do daily blood sugar testing, so it would sound like a kid writing for other kids, rather than a kid who is a bit annoyed by having to write this paragraph.

 

I would ask for a correction of the grammatical error of "supplies... is" ...

 

An online brave writer class, maybe expository essay ?, might be of help to you in seeing how to give suggestions as suggestions, not as demands for change, and to let someone else be the 'teacher" and editor.

 

I also think the idea of working on other writing than his own could help a lot.



#10 momandsam

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Posted 26 September 2016 - 06:30 PM

Thank you everyone! I do like the idea of having him revise other people's writing. For this assignment, I allowed him to choose his own topic. I was surprised he chose checking his blood sugar, but it makes sense because it is a simple thing he does every day (type 1 diabetes). If I had talked with him about his audience, it might have influenced his topic sentence more. I also talked with him briefly on the grammar error "is". After that, I decided to let it go and just keep working on it in other writing.

I have been looking online at Jensen's Format Writing. It says it is for high school, but I was wondering if it might give me a little direction in the meantime? Is anyone familiar with this book? Is it worth buying?