The Thursday Three

A weekly thing here at Accidental Literacy. Three things I’ve learned about literacy this week. . .

We’re writing persuasive papers in my class of 7th graders. The best word to describe this process would be adventurous. It’s not for the faint of heart. Students have brainstormed their topics. They’ve picked a position. What are the arguments to support their thesis? They have them. Arguments on the other side? They have counter-arguments. It’s so cool to see this develop! And then we start to talk about writing a lead. You can almost see the wheels fall of the persuasive-writing bus.

1. Students don’t have much experience writing a great lead for an essay. They want to use a standard, boring question. “Should kids have cell phones?” is a standard beginning. I go back to the paper I modeled writing in front of them on Monday. Did I just ask one question? Didn’t I use a few similes and metaphors? What about that great word picture I painted? They agree I’m a great writer. Then they go back to the tried and true.

2. Mentor texts rock my world. I can’t tell you how much re-teaching they have saved me over the past week. Thank you Kelly Gallagher and your wonderful book Write Like This! When a student wants to fall back on the contrived, uninspired methods of writing from elementary school (Where should I put the blues? I’ve got my o/p, my plan, and my “ing” so now what?) I can point out that none of mentor text authors used such training wheels.

3. When I asked kids how they were going to make their thesis statements better they responded with a chorus of “work hard”. I was looking for a chorus of “revise” but I went with it because I’m a professional.

“Yes!” I shouted. “Do you know what working hard in writing is called? It’s called revising!”

I’m thinking of making that a slogan for a t-shirt.

Would you buy one? I sure would.

What three things about literacy have you learned this week?

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