My favorite kind of learning is the kind of learning when you don’t even realize you’re learning. You got me? The kind of learning where you’re so wrapped up in the activity, the lesson, the experience that you don’t realize until the very end that your teacher was sneaky and had a hidden motive behind the whole thing. Because those experiences stick longer with our students. Those experiences produce actual learning and actual results.
Several of my students this year have writing goals on their IEPs. Yes, their writing conventions are weak because they don’t have the repetition and practice (not to mention that with an increase in texting, all capitalization and punctuation gets thrown out the window). But they also have goals that suggest they don’t delve deep into their writing. They can tell me the main point of a passage but without examples, without reasons. They lack details to support their arguments. They lack details to give their readers an understanding of what’s going on in their head.
So, I developed an activity. No lined paper was involved. The students would not be writing. You’re probably wondering, “How is she going to teach them how to be detailed in their writing if they’re not actually writing?” Well, here’s where that experiential, hands-on, stick-in-our-minds kind of lessons come into play.
Intro to Writing with Details
I paired my students off and had them sit back to back. One of the students was given a paper with a picture of a house. The other student was given a blank sheet of paper and a pencil.
Students with the picture were given 10 minutes to describe the house in detail to the other student who could not see the picture. The other student would have to draw the house based on the details they were being given. The objective of this activity was to draw an image that resembled the original – relying solely on the words of the student that could see the image.
It was so amazing to walk around the classroom and hear the students details and descriptions. I heard things like, “start the roof at approximately 1 centimeter from the top” or “the flower on the left side kind of sticks out of the first post and theres five petals. The stem of the flower on the right side kind of sticks out in between the 9th and 10th post, but it leans left and the flower is in between the 8th and the 9th post.”
The kids and I were so excited to reveal the drawings and compare each one to the original image. But what was most exciting for me (
being the sneaky teacher and all) was the discussion that we had after the activity. My students have the ability to develop details, but they didn’t have the understanding that details in our writing allow readers to visualize something that they are otherwise unable to see.
Having the students understand the value of explanation and the value in being descriptive is so important. They have to be able to see the importance and relevance in what they’re doing.
Now we are ready to tackle the pencil and paper.