Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Earning high grades in writing: "descriptive words"

If there's a subject in which I believe my 2nd grade daughter to be way above grade level, it's in writing. I believe this because she spends hours and hours of her free time inventing and writing down story after story after story, producing such gems as:
In the tunnle glowing lights shimered on the ceiling. It was blue. The wind was cool. It was like a cristal cave.
At school, however, where she's required to stick to nonfiction accounts of her personal life, she tends to produce stuff more like the following:
I went to my grandparents house. We drove there. It took a very long time to get there. I broget my doll there. When we got there I looked around the house for some paper.
A generation ago, when students were graded only on penmanship, spelling, grammar, and punctuation, this would have been fine. But today's "proficient" and "advanced" writing standards require students to "use descriptive words" that "paint pictures in people's heads."

Thus, lack of inspiration at school means writing skills assessed as "basic."


jh said...

it seems like it's very possible to train students to combine words ad short sentences and use structure that lends itself to descriptive words.

the problem with schools is that they really aren't interested in carefully training students to do tasks. instead, they waive their magic wand, give it a mediocre try, and then blame it on the kids.

lgm said...

I agree with JH's comment; I think most of the problem is the lack of ability of the teachers to teach writing (but then Direct Instruction is banned here so only the vets use it) and lack of training in evaluating writing. Last year, the poor new teacher that my son drew even admitted to me that he didn't know how to score the 5th grade Social Studies DBQ writing and offer improvements to the students ...no training by the district. We learned together.

Sounds like your dd has a wonderful imagination but didn't draw a teacher that teaches composition skills. In NY, both samples you posted would be considered basic, as the "It is.." sentences fall in the "Dick and Jane" category. If you have time to afterschool, I highly recommend the Writing Strands curriculum for homeschoolers by the National Writing Institute. Level 2 is appropriate and has the lesson on combining sentences and using descriptive words. The "Evaluating Writing" book was useful to me too.
Best wishes with your budding author.