Tuesday, January 1, 2008

January 2008: Emily Earnhart is Focusing on Learning, not Tedium


Background

January 2008 America Learns Strategy of the Month

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Have you ever had an assignment like this?

Please write a five-sentence paragraph. In each sentence, use one proper noun, one pronoun, and one objective noun. Do not repeat the proper nouns, pronouns, and objective nouns you use.

We used to loathe these types of assignments in elementary and middle school (especially the ones that didn't allow us to repeat the words we used). Love them or hate them, students still need to work through and understand them.

Emily EarnhartEmily Earnhart, an AmeriCorps member with Keystone SMILES AmeriCorps in Pennsylvania, created a simple strategy to help her eighth grade student organize and complete this assignment while focusing on learning (as opposed to focusing on which words one has already used).

Check out Emily’s strategy below!

The Strategy

DECONSTRUCTIVE/CONSTRUCTIVE SENTENCING
(Helping Students to Write Sentences that Need to Have Certain Word Types in Them)

Created by: Emily Earnhart, Keystone SMILES AmeriCorps
(America Learns Network member since 2005)
Topics: Grammar; Writing
Grade Levels: Third - Adult
Arrangements: One-on-One; Small Group
Materials:
- Ruled paper
- Pencil

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Situation: I use this strategy to help my student through assignments such as, "Write five sentences that each have a unique proper noun, pronoun, and objective noun."

The strategy offers an alternative to just beginning to write sentence after sentence and then constantly checking back to make sure that you haven't repeated any words. While the strategy is quite simple, it really helps my student get organized and stay focused on the assignment and on learning (as opposed to being focused on whether he has repeated any words).

   
Step 1: Create a table on a piece of paper with the appropriate number of columns, plus (if they're not already required) an additional column for verbs.

For example, if a teacher wants your student to write five sentences with the types of words mentioned in the Situation box above, you'd have columns labeled Proper Noun, Pronoun, Objective Noun, and Verb.

Emily Earnhart's Table

   
Step 2: Continuing with this example, since your student has to write five sentences, ask him to come up with five proper nouns, pronouns, objective nouns and verbs that he likes. Have your student write those words in their respective columns.

When your student comes up with verbs, consider asking him to also come up with additional information and/or modifiers for those verbs (e.g., rather than just writing "walked", writing "slowly walked to the store"). This information may speed up the process of writing sentences later.

   
Step 3: Ask your student to choose any one item from each column to create each of his five sentences, crossing off the words he has already used so that he stays organized.

Note that if your student is asked to write one or more paragraphs on a certain subject while making sure that each sentence contains certain types of words, it's easiest to first get rough sentences down and to then revise the sentences and turn them into a cohesive paragraph.

Note also that the words your student comes up with in the table aren't set in stone. If he finds better words while writing or revising his sentences, definitely let him use them.

   
Related Resources & Materials for America Learns Network Members: If your organization is a part of the America Learns Network community, check out these related resources to consider using with your student or mentee:

- Adjectives & Adverbs (Helping Students to Understand the Differences between the Two)
- Experiencing Nouns and Adjectives Through Sensory Perception
- Repairing Run-on Sentences
- Revising Roundup! (Modeling Revising to Students)
- We Agree! (Introducing Subject-Verb Agreement)

Thoughts?
How Have You Addressed this Issue?

Please share your thoughts about this strategy and any messages you have for Emily by clicking the grey “Comments” link below.

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