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Hi Hipteacher,

I never taught high school, but I think some of the principles I learned teaching second graders to write might be helpful here. Please don't think I'm trying to demean them; learning is learning, and in this case, it really needs to be done.

I liked your comment back to the student. What I would do is a guided writing lesson with an examply similar to that one in front of the whole class on chart paper and have them tell me where a new paragraph starts, where to correct things, etc. Ask them if they can tell you what the main idea (big picture, whatever phrasing you'd like to use) is. Try to make your example something relevant to their lives (altho, LOL, maybe not pimping) so they can stay with ya. Shock factor seems to work with your group and so the more you can show them they and their issues DON'T surprise ya, the more they'll trust you not to be judgmental.

That's all I can offer. Keep posting!


hip - I have a similar problem; one specific student who only just learned to read a year ago; why he's in the 8th grade now is due to social promotion, which Dekalb has stopped doing this year. In a class of 25 students, how do I address his needs?

Your response was very good. You may also try personal conferences too, and have students read their writing back to you.

Good luck. I think about you in your big room sometimes, and I smile.


That was a great, thoughtful piece, though, you know! I'd do the same as Tara recommended - if she learns to chunk her thoughts into a purposeful sequence, then the same pattern can be worked upon with sentence order, and punctuation.
But I'd follow up by getting the class to paragraph their own proposals better, in the form of a flow diagram, so they have to identify and describe the links between the paragraphs (like an arrow, or several arrows, or links from earlier paragraphs?)

Nancy D

I've been there. At my first school, the kids hadn't been taught how to write, so when I got their essays, I was overwhelmed. I can't say that I figured it out, but I changed schools and the kids in the new school are better prepared.

A few years ago, one of our middle school teachers started giving the kids a formula for paragraph writing. It has the weaknesses of a formula of course, but it helps. You can easily transition to multiparagraph essay form which is what, I believe, the GHSGT is looking for.

If you're interested, email me and I'll send you some stuff.

miss t

one thing i've seen done and plan on doing with my kids (i'm a first year teacher) on a very basic level is to have them go through with 2 colors of colored pencils and alternately underline each sentence with a different color. then they can take each sentence apart and make sure they individually make sense, have a subject and verb, aren't run-ons, etc.

some kind of paragraph formula may also be a good place to start while they are just learning, they can always break out of the formula as their skills improve.

i have more but i have to get myself ready for the day.

Peter Temes

Hi, HT.

First, let me tell you that I'm loving reading your blog, and I think you are doing a great, great job. I hope you'll still be teaching years from now - - that's the real challenge.

About this student's writing - - I'm going to be unrestrained because I know you care a lot about this - - personally, I bet your student could not get much from your comment. It was kind and sensible, but I doubt she thinks in the terms you take for granted. Commas, paragraphs, etc., even how it strikes your ear (or her ear) -- I bet those are terms she just never thinks in, and would need lots of explaining over lots of weeks to make sense out of.

I think if she were my student, I'd ask her - - maybe help her get started in class - - to take three sheets of paper. Across the top of the first one, I'd write her first sentence with some silent corrections: "During 2002, the world has come to a change." I'd ask her to write a list on that page of the changes that happened in 2002.

On the second sheet, I'd write, "Our president is suffering from 'Failureness.'" Then I'd ask her to write an explanation of what that means, and some examples of how we know the president is stuck in Failureness.

On the third sheet, I'd write, "Our country needs a great awakening" [dig, by the way, her allusion to the 18th-century American theologian Jonathan Edwards, who led the "great awakening" movement; I bet she got this in church, and it's truly sign of sophistication]. I'd ask her to write an explanation of what a great awakening is, and examples of what kinds of changes a great awakening might help make happen in America.

Now, honestly, I don't know where this exercise would lead, but I am sure it would lead in very interesting places. I'm reacting to seeing a thread of serious and connected ideas here, and hoping that as a teacher I could help her understand her own stirrings of good ideas, and see how they might connect.

If you can get three sheets of words from her out of this - - and, man, maybe no one could, but in the right environment, I think it's more than possible - - and if you can lavish time on this student writer, I bet you'll be able to connect some things from sheet one to sheet two, and then from sheet two to sheet three, that would form the basis of a real, thoughful argument.

cheers, PT


Thanks for sharing this writing and experience, hipteacher.

Very cool ideas from Peter, if you'd ever have the time to work with this student one-on-one. Would love to hear more about her progress if there is any to report later...

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