"Prompt & Write:" Frustration in Kidland

December 05, 2013

Here’s a little interaction using an approach to writing that I call the “Prompt and Write approach” to teaching writing:

Writing Prompt:

 “What is something you really wanted,  but an adult would not let you have?”

Response: 

Wons I whanted a lego set but my mom said it was to match money so I get mad so I was sad I threw a tamper tantrum tis is when I was 3 so I relly  wanet it I saved and saved for about 5 weeks until we went back to the Lego store bat my mom still did not get it my birthday was coming so I wanted to show the kids then my mom got it for me.

So, this was written by a fourth grader, George, age 9.  George is not classified and is on no one’s radar at school. In fact, according to the school he is meeting his “standards” with on-line, multiple choice only assessments. (George scored in the 71st %ile in reading.)

Let’s assume for argument sake that George does not have some type of learning disability. (I think he does.)  Even if he does not have a “disability,” I think we would all agree that at a very basic level George does not have a clue what is involved in the writing of a sentence.   

If that is the case, shouldn’t the focus of the instruction with George be on the sentence level?  How is more and more open-ended "Prompt and Write" going to help George internalize the components of a good sentence?  (Keep in mind that George is now five school months away from fifth grade.)  

From where I sit, George needs a  lot of practice (perhaps even through the whole year) writing simple sentences.  Once George has mastered the ability to write a simple sentence, the next step would be for George to practice writing more complex sentences.  Following the mastering of writing these sentences, George can learn how to put together one solid paragraph.  (The writing of one paragraph would probably need to be practiced repeatedly for a fair amount of time for the skill to be internalized and mastered.)

I know what I am proposing goes against the grain in terms of the way writing is popularly being taught, but I simply can’t understand how someone like George will ever learn how to write even a solid sentence using the “Prompt and Write” method.

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