Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Finding her Voice

I shared a handout on Intros, Hooks, and ... on no, a senior moment...I will remember in a few minutes, but any way I was teaching my students that we do not have to have boring introductions.  Leads... that was the missing word!  Some of the strategies included using a rhetorical question to begin an intro, such as "Wouldn't you want to go to a restaurant that serves amazing food, has a cozy atmosphere, and reasonable prices to match?, or start it with a string of adjectives,  Lush, cool, and sprinkled with colorful flowers, was what I set my eyes on as we climbed the narrow path up to Mt. Britton, making the trek all worth the effort.  Any way, as I shared these techniques, many of my students perked up and listened.  I gave them opportunity after opportunity to practice and today was their third chance, and some enthusiastically ran with it.  It was thrilling to see them.  Some for the first time picking up a pen with the confidence that they could actually write some thing that they could feel proud about.

I in fact shared eight writing techniques, not my original, but a handout that I had studied and explained in depth.  The students highlighted and wrote notes as I went over them.  I also explained that they didn't have to put all eight into practice at the same time.  I wanted them to choose three techniques that they felt confident that they could handle.  Many chose the rhetorical question, some the riddle, others the string of adjectives which is one of my personal favorites, while others chose figurative language using either a powerful simile or metaphor, loving how they could master a writing technique.  None chose the complex sentence but we will practice those, too.  Just wait and see. There is so much more to learn but imagine what kind of year we will have if they discover that they can write.

One of my students,  a gentle young lady who rarely speaks up, came up to me at the end of class and handed me her thin paper that seemed to be on fire saying,
"Ms. Vazquez, I could never write before, and I wrote this!"
 I smiled and asked, "And what did you classmates say?"
"They loved it!' She beamed.
I read it and I loved it, too.  It was creative, joyful, and full of dialogue, but what I loved the most was that she had found her voice. 

That made my day.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Taco City, Cocoa, Florida

Today, while sharing some calibration papers with my students who are learning to become better writers, something clicked.  Part of the lesson included the importance of knowing that their essays would be scored holistically outlining four basic areas: focus, organization, support, and conventions.

In order to illustrate some excellent writing styles, I read two essays to them out loud and then let them comment on what they liked about each and at least two areas in which they would do things differently now that they had read these essays.  Well, they were taken with the precise word choices, as well as with the details, in other words they recognized the level of support.  They also commented on the humor, enthusiasm, and imagery with its sensory details and depth.  They were impressed.  In fact, some of them applauded when I finished reading. What encouraged me the most is that most of them said they would do things differently.  Definitely one big step in the right direction.

The essay prompt for the essays we were reading was a favorite place. A Level 6 essay student wrote about a place called Taco City.  This student described the place as only being a couple of feet away from the beach and that it served the best Mexican food at reasonable prices.  The student also said the place had a 30 year history surviving several hurricanes.  I figured it was an authentic place and after a Google search, lo and behold the place actually exists.

To my surprise Taco City not only exists; it also a mere 25 miles away at Cocoa Beach, Florida.  It is quite possible that I will take a short trip over there on the Beachline Expressway straight to Cocoa Beach.  If you are planning to go to Cocoa Beach in the near future check it out.  It comes with a very high recommendation.


When your favorite color is orange

What do you do when your favorite colors are yellow, red, and orange? What do you do when the season is fall and you are stuck in the green?  You go to websites that have beautiful colors like the one underneath this post flaunting Oklahoma and their tranquil rivers surrounded by brilliant colors reflected on the water.  What do you do? What else can you do? You wait.

All good things come to those who wait... for that celestial paint brush which will make it here sometime.  In the mean time, it's the internet and some well placed web cams for me and dreams of red, yellow, and orange hues.