Thursday, October 25, 2012

Writing Club

{Reading the last pages of Harry Potter IV; up the stairs in the sunshine; jazz hands at a Saturday concert - pictures only vaguely related to post ;-}

"She’s a ballet dancer, twirling around?"
   "Wait, she looks guilty about something, see her smile?"
"I know, she’s about to grab those Oreos. She’s pretending to sneak a cookie!"
"You’ve guessed right, Caroline’s a cookie thief!"

This week in writing club, we’re working on expository paragraphs - the hard working support staff behind so many essays. I love digging into words and making them recognizable for kids, so we start by chopping "expository" up to find "expose" and "pose." Then I promise the class that if they can play charades (and expose a pose) they can also write an expository paragraph without even knowing it.

Prepped ahead of time, Caroline poses as a cookie thief while everyone else yells out their guesses. Afterwards, I write up the class’s first thoughts, the cues that clued them in, and finally, their winning guess. Once done, I introduce the girls to the first draft of their paragraph, complete with thesis, supporting sentences, and conclusion.


We’re not home schooling Caroline, and I haven’t decided to switch from the IT world to education. We are sending the children to Czech schools that teach ESL English though, so we supplement. Caroline goes to class with grammar and spelling workbooks from the States. She writes book reports in both English and Czech, and does assignments for her writing club, a mother-run after school class that meets twice a month.

Six weeks into the semester, C’s worked on poetry and creative writing, written a news story, and expanded her vocabulary of expressive adverbs, verbs and adjectives. Today, we’re talking about expository paragraphs and linking words. It’s the first time I’ve taught in front of Caroline’s friends, so she’s asked me to make it "fun and teachy too."

I try. The time disappears in a flash, but each girl gets to pose and have her charades skit turned into a paragraph that the class writes together. By the end of our hour, the paragraphs evolve from bullet lists into well linked sentences full of transition words and active verbs. I consider writing blog posts using a committee of fourth graders. (I’d at least write more!)

The only cloud descends when Caroline gets her feelings hurt; I haven’t called on her as much as I do at home. On our walk back to the house, she’s still upset. Looking into her ear I diagnose a case of "mami-ucitelkitis" or "mother/teacher syndrome" and explain that the only cure is repeat application. In the meantime though, we might bandage it up and do a little window shopping as we walk. We do. But that’s a story for another day.