NO CHILD LEFT INDOORS—WRITING FOR THE COMMON CORE Quick, before the weather turns cold, try to find a moment when you can take your students outside into the schoolyard. Get some clipboards and have them walk around looking for life in the city. Have them write observations and have them practice expressing themselves clearly, describing what they see. Educational studies indicate that children are more likely to engage in a writing exercise when the writing assignment is related to an activity in which they have just participated. You would be surprised to know that even in our worst concrete jungles life abounds. You can find weeds or moss growing through cracks in the pavement. Insects, birds, and squirrels are everywhere and if we ask students to do some observation you will be amazed at the things they observe that they never observed before. The Common Core ELA standards require the fostering of three writing capacities: writing to explain, writing to persuade and writing to convey real or imagined experience. A simple walk around the schoolyard can be the experience needed to get your students’ writing jumpstarted.
PS I just saw Grasshopper in the City! It excited me to write about it. You could use this as an example of “writing to convey a real or imagined experience.” I was waiting for the 32 bus right outside the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia (19th and Ben Franklin Parkway) this morning and something caught my eye on a ledge. It was a tiny grasshopper, with one antenna. I was so excited to see it I almost missed my bus. I began wondering if it had escaped from the Academy (they have live animals there and maybe he was destined to be food but he escaped) or if it made the dangerous crossing across traffic from the park like setting. Who says that there is no wildlife in the city? I used my iPhone to capture an image of my new friend and I was compelled to write about the experience. Maybe we can have this same kind of enthusiasm if we ask our students to write about what they see in the schoolyard.
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