Writing and Practicum

This was the first week of Secondary English practicum. I am exhausted. But I am also very excited about what is to come in the next seven weeks. Normally, I hope I’ll have more to blog about than practicum, but practicum is really all I’ve had time to think about this week, and, I promise, it’s related to writing. đŸ™‚

Students in the 7th grade language arts class where I am doing my practicum wrote short stories and poems this week. I made comments and suggestions on over 50 student poem drafts and helped with questions while they typed up their short stories from the written drafts they had done previously. Reading those poems, which were Bio Poems based on a template that the teacher provided, I was amazed. Several of the poems wowed me so much that I had to ask my coop what I should write as feedback! I don’t recall doing any creative writing (and by that, I mean writing aside from book reports or five paragraph persuasive essays) during my own junior high years (or in high school, for that matter), and I was amazed at the language these students used. Here is the script that I recall from the assignment, though I’m sure I’m missing a line or two. Also, keep in mind these were supposed to be written in third-person:

First Name

4 adjectives that describe me

Daughter/son/cousin/niece/nephew/sister/brother of _________

Lover of – 3 things

Who fears – 3 things

Who feels – 3 things

Who would like to see – 3 things

Last Name

 

They were encouraged to provide as much detail about each thing listed as possible. Of course, there were some students who did the bare minimum, and I commented on those papers that they did an okay job, but more detail would really be great. However, the vast majority of poems had some really creative use of language. Each student is at a different level of writing, but when they received their drafts back, each one had mechanics changes as well as comments on content and let the student know where he or she could move on from there. My overall point is that despite the fact that these students are newly from multiple elementary schools and have had different exposure to writing in school, and they are each at their own writing levels, they all had some really great writing skills. I think it is important as this age that their teacher is spending a lot of time on creative writing because not too long from now, if they have not been encouraged to write creatively, they will start to move away from the use of imaginative language, at least in my own personal experience.

90% of the poems I read had great use of description. At least 8 of the 50 or so I read had comments from me requesting that they make an extra copy for the teacher to save in her folder of “great examples.” And I could see the pride that these students had in their own work. Even (most of) those students who had suggestions about needing more detail in their writing did some great revision in their drafts and asked questions when they needed help.

I guess the overarching sentiment of this blog is that now I have seen in action the importance of writing in the classroom and the impact it has on students. I have also seen how writing can be implemented in the classroom in a practical way. Now that I’m back in a classroom, I realize how short a class period really is, which makes the fact that these students can accomplish some really great writing in such a short time span all the more impressive. I hope to see a lot more writing during my practicum, and hopefully next time I will have a little more insight on what I’ve learned!

Question: how do you feel about asking students to write scripted poems? My coop told me that she doesn’t particularly like assigning poems like this, but that at the beginning of the year, with students from all different backgrounds of writing, it can be daunting to students to say “lets write a poem!” This assignment was actually helpful for me, too, during my first week because it allowed me a chance to get to know some of the students with whom I’ll be working.

 

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7 Comments

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7 responses to “Writing and Practicum

  1. Keeley Thode

    It seems like you have had quite a positive first week in your practicum class. I do not start my practicum classroom experience until next semester so I find it very interesting when you (or others in our class) decide to blog about practicum experiences. I think that the poem assignment from that class is a great way to begin the school year with students coming from all different kinds of writing experience. I agree with you that it is truly amazing how well students can write and be expressive at such young ages.

  2. Randi,
    You make a good point: it’s one thing to learn and read about teaching writing, and it’s another thing to actually do it. It sounds like you’re off to a good start, though! I would echo Keeley’s comment also: I haven’t taken practicum yet, either, so it is very interesting to hear others’ experiences that they are having in the classroom. Keep us posted on how things are going and good luck!

  3. mockiowarhetoric

    I actually like assigning scripted pieces every once in awhile because it challenges students to be creative within a given set of limitations, which isn’t too far from the reality of what they will be expected to write in the future. If that is all you ever gave them, I understand why that might be too confining, but I think a mix of assignments is better than just sticking to one type. Being told to “write a poem” can be intimidating. The script, in my opinion, can help level the playing field, and it sounds like you had some amazing responses. Everyone teaches differently, I’m sure your coop has valid reasons for disliking those kinds of assignments but I’d say it seems like your experience was a success for several reasons.

    By the way, I used to go to a school that has one of the best poetry MFA workshops in the country and the first class they all had to take was a class where they wrote were poems in styles that had sets of rules and conventions that were predetermined: quatrains, sonnets, couplets, etc.

  4. I’m glad you’re Practicum classes are going so well! I, too, was pleasantly surprised to see how eager most of the students in my Practicum classes were to begin writing. I was even more surprised at how talented many of them are! They had a similar “scripted” assignment this week, and I admit that at first I balked at the idea of such a structured work. Shouldn’t writing be about cultivating creativity in our students?

    I agree with your teacher in the end, however, that this kind of structure is necessary at first. For instance, I love cooking, but I’m only a beginner so I still use recipes. Soon, though, I hope to feel comfortable enough with the tools I possess to create my own signature dishes. These students will begin cooking up their own poems soon enough, I’m sure.

  5. Sounds like your practicum is off to a really great start. That’s awesome that you were able to read (and write feedback) to so many students. I think it’s important to include creative writing in the classroom to keep things interesting for students and really get them thinking.

  6. Hi Randy,
    Poetry has long revolved around fitting into a particular set of conventions and so I feel like scripted poems are a useful way of giving new students a very particular set of conventions within to learn to write. It can also be a very good occasion to learn more about students and perhaps to help them learn more about each other. While I wouldn’t want to have them be the only thing, scripted poems definitely have enough benefits to find a place in my class.
    kevin

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