I have been working with a group of Year 4 students on paragraph writing. Last week I divided them into pairs and held a paragraph writing competition. Each group pulled their topic out of a hat and so each group wrote about something different. The paragraphs were read and the winners were agreed on because they had stuck to the structure and topic, had capitals and full stops and had made an effort to improve their paragraph with leftover time. Winners were paid out in bonus points.
This week, the kids were on their own. They knew exactly where they had lost marks in the group writing competition and once again, they chose topics from the hat. The timer was set, the background music was on and eight little kids bowed their heads and wrote away. I swear I could see little puffs of smoke coming from their motorized hands. I felt myself wanting to run for my video camera, but thought that might distract them. Suddenly they were writing for purpose. They knew there was no talking – they just had to get stuck in and write. To me – that is the ultimate goal for special ed (or any) writing classes: Giving students as many opportunities as possible to write.
The students begged to share their paragraphs…they were proud of them. After the lesson I had to buckle down and choose a winner. However, this was hard to do as they had chosen different topics, had all stuck to the topic (yay) and structure (yay) and had all the capitals and full stops (double yay!)
My solution? I made each one a winner for a different reason. I printed off some stickers, which I intended to hand out, have them wear with pride and award them bonus points with the stickers. Hopefully they were going to show these off for the rest of the day.
This is what my stickers said:
I wrote with feeling today
I knew how to make my point today
I knew how to build up to my ending today
I wrote an informative paragraph today
I did some passionate writing today
I persevered in my writing today (She did not like her topic at all, but after a stern look from me, chose to get on with it.)
I was a creative writer today
I was the best speller today
I did not get to hand out my stickers because we had an evacuation drill and missed our lesson. Sometimes life does not go according to plan. Hopefully they will have the same effect next week. I am hoping they will.