Saturday, January 19, 2008

Writing

I am doing a little experiment on how to make my grade school pupil, especially the grades one and two, write. It is difficult enough to make them read, how much more to make them write! I have read some of John Holt’s idea about reading and writing and I seriously take his “doctrine” that motivating children to read and write is the primary concern of the teacher, and the rests are accidentals. (I don’t know if I said it accurately.) And somehow his ideas (not all of them) inspire me to try to be creative with my approaches to teahing.

To encourage my pupils to write, I usually give them a piece of bond paper, tell them to draw anything they like on it like robots, or cartoon characters or dinosaurs; anything that would stir up their imagination. And when they are already busy drawing, I would tell story of space battles, of wars, of a stray dog ripping my dog’s ear, a fairy tale or I would just make up things, anything to stir up my pupil’s imagination so that they could write and express without any inhibition. (Holt mentioned how Professor S.I. Hayakawa invented a technique in teaching writing to his freshman students—he tells his students to write about anything, any topic, for thirty minutes without stopping. Of course I am not teaching freshmen. I am teaching grade school children who are non native English speakers. But how will I know if this method works at grade school level unless I try it. The method may sound like Freudian or psychotherapeutic blah, blah…but ...who cares! It’s up to the teacher to be discreet on whatever their students may have consciously or unconsciously revealed in their writings.)

I am getting good results. One grade three pupil wrote 80, a grade two wrote 52 and a grade one pupil wrote 25 simple sentences in English, the minimum I got was five simple sentences that is grammatically more acceptable than some of my classmates (excuse me my math and science major classmates) writings. And all I did was to tell them to draw something, or to look at a book and write anything they can write about in there. (Sometimes I tell them that I could see sentences floating around the classroom like, “The light is on. There is a poster on the wall. Agybert is under the chair.” Etc.)

I am surprised at the result!

One of the difficulties I encountered was on translation. My pupils ask me to translate Filipino words into English. I ask them how they will use it in a sentence but I know that if I become too technical, they may loose interest in what they are doing. So, I just write translations of Filipino words into English on the white board. The good thing about this is that they are adding more to their vocabulary bank with very little effort on their part, but the downside is, problem will arise in usage. But these things, grammar and usage, are easy to fix as long as the pupil is writing. The most difficult problem to fix is when pupils begin to hate writing-- when they stop writing.

I limit my lectures to five to ten minutes because, honestly, they are boring!

I will continue to write some of my observations here on a weekly basis, and I welcome ideas, comments and suggestion on teaching no matter how unorthodox they are.

(Maybe I will include this on the narratives of my practice teaching. But then again who will read them in the campus! This is why up to now I am not motivated to revise my thesis on student organizations and leadership because I know it would not be read.)

I will try to write something about child behavior too, from my student teaching experience, that is, if I can or if I could.

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