Mechanics of Writing

Do your students struggle with the mechanics of writing? Even the basics?

Yeah, mine do, too.

So this post is all about THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY.

THE GOOD: We have written more this year than any other year.

THE BAD: The majority of my students are still making simple mistakes.

THE UGLY: In a ONE paragraph summary last week that they submitted to me electronically, ALL of them had to make corrections, and 15 out of 16 had to make corrections THREE times, and THEN some STILL had mistakes.

We are talking about capitalization errors, simple punctuation errors, leaving words out, using the wrong word, and spelling mistakes with simple words.


To be honest, today I almost cried.

I wanted to GIVE UP.

Are they not embarrassed? Do they not care?

But then as I was researching (yeah, I guess you figured out I didn’t give up), and reading, and tweeting, and getting some good feedback from other teachers, I realized something:

Through their writing, they are really telling me that however I have been teaching editing has not worked.

I, the teacher, have got to make some adjustments. Some serious adjustments. And quickly.

So instead of going with my original plan this week for english/writing, I’m gonna modify it a little.

Tomorrow we are going to learn how to do an “Express Lane Edit”. You can read about this concept by Jeff Anderson HEREΒ in a Voices in the Middle article that he wrote.

Tomorrow we’re going SHOPPING. For some errors. OR some good writing mechanics.

We are going to CHECK THEM OUT.

And of course we are going to write a RECEIPT for the ones we find.

Then somehow in this overwhelming curriculum, and in our stretched to the max schedule, we ARE GOING to become editors of our own writing. And we are going to get good at it. πŸ™‚



I’m Positive

Yep! I’m positive.

I’m positive that appositives are VERY HARD for my 6th graders! πŸ™‚

Today we imitated our model sentence again for more practice. Then we looked in the books we are reading to see if we could find an appositive.


Every phrase or sentence that had commas- they thought it was an appositive!

Moving right along- we tried to revise our mystery short stories by finding somewhere we could insert an appositive. This went a little better.

English is so hard. Writing is harder. And reading like a writer is impossible. Lol!

Not really. But they are so not used to doing this. We are going to keep on and persevere and become better writers and readers and thinkers. We are. πŸ™‚

I’m positive!

Running and Patience

These 2 things could go together. And need to go together. But in this post they will be written about as 2 separate things. So here it goes.

Today after school I ran 3 miles in 38:47 with 3 walk breaks. This is the farthest I’ve run since school started. Actually, probably since the middle of the summer. Yeah-true slacker lately!

But it felt so good! Especially during the walk breaks. HAHA!

And now I’m drinking water as I write this post. Which is also unusual. Go figure. πŸ™‚

Ok-next up is the patience part of this post.

I have a confession. I lost my patience with my 6th graders today. A couple of times. Not the kind of losing patience where you might tend to raise your voice or yell. No-this was a “hanging my head, sort of laughing, and saying I don’t know how to get it across to you”. Yeah, that kind of losing patience. Which is not ANY better than the other kind.

So these are the things I struggled with today:

1. Math-Dividing decimals

Putting the decimal in the wrong place? Quick fix. Multiplying and dividing incorrectly? I truly don’t know how to fix that in the 6th grade. Those are 3rd grade skills that have been practiced relentlessly since then.Β 

Any suggestions?

2. English-Appositives

Do I care if they know that a descriptive phrase in a sentence is called an appositive? No. I just want them to be able to use these phrases in their writing. Hence-our model sentence each week that we look at and notice and imitate.Β 

To be fair to them, they did a good job imitating the sentence when the phrase described the subject. But when I asked them to use a descriptive phrase somewhere else in the sentence they had a hard time. Like really hard. Even after I wrote an example on the board. I guess I don’t understand why it’s so hard to imitate someone else’s writing?

3. Research-Life cycle of a star

I’ve been teaching them how to research this year. It is a common core standard. And I believe it’s a necessary skill for the 21st century. For their future.

But I guess I forgot that even though I’ve been teaching them, I still haven’t taught them EVERYTHING about it, and it’s only October. So I gave them the outline of what they would be researching. And they got stuck. If they searched for “the beginning of a star” or “the ending of a star” and got no hits, they didn’t realize that this search might have turned up something- “star life cycle”.

So after all of this, the laughing I did in my classroom wasn’t the funny kind of laughing. And now I feel bad about it.Β 

I reflected on it after school-as I was running, on the way to dinner, when I got home, and even now as I write this. This is the FIRST year they’ve been asked to do a lot of what I’m asking them to do. I’ve GOT to remember that!

I’ve got to go easy on them. I think if they COULD do what I’m teaching them and asking them to do they WOULD do it.Β 

So BACKOFF, Shannon!! πŸ™‚


They’re not used to writing. They’re not used to researching. They’re not used to creating.

Give them time. Continue to model, model, model. Continue to support.Β 

They will get used to writing. They will get used to researching. They will get used to creating.

Rome wasn’t built in a day. πŸ™‚

Added some new blog pages

I just added some new pages to my blog. These are from my old blog when I taught Reading to 6th graders.

They are titled:

Reading Tools

Grammar Practice

Comprehension Skills

Comprehension Strategies

Linky Link Parties

CAFE/Daily 5

Maybe you can find something beneficial. πŸ™‚

Bio Poems in English

Last week we made “bio” poems about ourselves. Really, I guess they should be called “auto-bio” poems. πŸ™‚

The kids had a writing frame that they had to follow-it was very simple. I got it from Mrs. Gold’s website which is awesome! Here is a link to the bio poem frame on her website:Β

Instead of having my kids put their poem on their silhouettes, I just had them put it on plain white copy paper and decorate around their poem.

Here is a picture of the one that I did to show them as an example.

Β Can you tell I love color? And rainbows?

I took my favorite ones and some of my students put them in the hall today. Now mind you, they are my favorites because of the decoration not the actual poem. I’m a little shallow minded this close to the end of the school year! πŸ™‚

Don’t you love the designs??

So creative!!

We had our elementary awards day today-which by the way threw a kink into our schedule! This time of the year is so crazy!! It makes me crazy! πŸ™‚

Here’s a picture of all the 6th graders who received an award!

I know I said I would let you know all about our science lesson today, and yes I knew about the awards day, but our pe time was different which threw me off schedule, and then we went outside for a rather “long” time today. πŸ™‚

We ended up not switching classes today, but what we did with my homeroom class went very well I thought!

1. We activated our schema by writing on a sticky note anything that we already know about the planets. They put their sticky note on the bulletin board and had to read it aloud to the class. As they did this, I listed their schema in a list on the whiteboard. Each time someone repeated something that another student had already said I just put a check mark beside it instead of writing it again. This is what MOST of the students already know-There are 8 planets, and Pluto is not a planet! There were several students who knew things about the composition of the planets (gases, rings, oxygen, etc.), but not the majority of the class. πŸ™‚ There is work to do! πŸ™‚

2. We watched the National Geographic video (about 3 minutes long) about our solar system. I had the students draw 8 planets on a sheet of paper (randomly-not in order). They had to take notes throughout the video by writing facts down inside or beside the planets. I played the video twice. πŸ™‚

That’s all we got to do. This is what I have learned so far-

1. I am going to have to teach the kids how to listen and take notes “quickly”. I’ll make sure I do this the 1st week of school next year.

2. I am going to have to limit our discussions in science. Boy, do they want to share and ask questions and discuss it all. πŸ™‚ This is a good thing, but I’m going to have to build in a little time each day for this-otherwise I will just stress myself out trying to cover too much!

My best friend who teaches 4th grade brought in a baby bird that her kids found yesterday on the playground. I will post pictures later this week because I am too tired to do it now. πŸ™‚

How do you keep your students from straying too far off the guided path??