View Full Version : Teaching First Graders...

09-23-2010, 01:46 AM
I am a first grade teacher. My favorite time of the day is our Writer's Workshop. (Gee, I wonder why?) Anyway, I was conferring with one of my students. She wrote down that she was sad. I asked her, "How do you know you were sad?" She said, "I was crying and my heart hurt." I said, "You should write that instead of just saying you were sad." She said, "Okay," then happily skipped off to fix her story. It just got me to thinking: How bad is it that a six year old gets show don't tell when their teacher (and so many others) has a hard time with it? Anyway, was a good day in our writer's workshop.

Mistress Elysia
09-23-2010, 11:06 AM
I have this with my kids, too. I teach 11 - 16 year olds English, and obviously creative writing is my favourite bit to teach (well, alongside Gothic Literature... and, well, Literature in general... and media... and - oh, hell. Everything is great, bar teaching grammar!). My Year 7s (the 11 year olds) are doing a piece right now where they have to describe a beach, using all 5 of their senses to show me, not tell me, what it's like to there. From this, I am getting lovely (if childish) turns of phrase about 'the salty air flowed up my nose and my head began to spin' - possibly a little crude in its execution, but lovely at the same time.

Then we fast forward 5 years, to my Year 11s (the 16 year olds). They haven't started their descriptive writing yet, so here's an example from last year:
'Then they sat down and were sad. He looked at her and sniffed. She felt sadder.'

This is not, I repeat, not from a kid I would consider lacking in English. It's like a mixture of self-conscious worry that turns to fear when it comes to exploring English (coupled with teenage laziness a lot of the time) that leeches out their ability to show and not tell. There's a comfort in telling - you are telling your audience exactly what they want to know, with no fear of them not getting the point, whereas showing leads to people not getting what you're saying, which leads to perceived 'failure' on their part. The sad thing is, no matter how much I go on about 'being fearless' and 'not being afraid to experiment', they always go back to this, especially on a first draft. It's not all of them - some of them produce work that makes me want to weep, it's so beautiful - but a lot of them retreat into this 'telling comfort zone': one that is easy for them to come out of when they are younger, but so much harder when they are older!