alex's "wowser" sentences

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After I finished grading papers tonight, I took a quick look through my kids' "portfolios" of school work from last week. (They bring a folder of work home every Friday.)

One of Alex's (second grade) assignments had been to write five "wowser" sentences--sentences that are detailed and descriptive--using that week's spelling words. Here's his, intact. (Spelling words highlighted in bold.)

  1. I love to splash and play in my pool near my swing-set.
  2. Scooba-divers are people who go under-water with air tanks, goggles and flippers.
  3. I often tell on my anoying bratty older brother.
  4. Why do you park on a driveway and drive on a parkway?
  5. The damp green tree fungus said I know a funny joke.

He does make me laugh.

The teacher "corrected" the last one, placing a comma after 'said' and quotes around "I know a funny joke." I'm tempted to send it back and point out that her changes significantly alter the meaning, and that perhaps he was recounting what the tree fungus said about him. But I won't, since Alex seems quite fond of her, and being a pain-in-the-ass parent won't make his life any better.

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This was a comment I posted not more than a few minutes ago on Professor Lawley's blog: Although I am... Read More


I have to agree with you on number 5. Also, I'd like to mention that if Alex has a talking damp green tree fungus, he should take it to school and let it discuss the English language with the relevant teacher. :)

It reminds me of GPF Comics, where there is a talking slime mold named Fred who used to teach English at an online University...

These are great. And coming from a second grader, very impressive!

The teacher was just trying to be helpful - we can't all be perfect, can we? ;-)

Ted, I know that. And I like the teacher. But one of my problems with schools is that they tend to push "one right way" of doing things, and creativity often takes a hit when that happens.

(Not that I'm not guilty of the same behavior, of course. :)

Sounds like my daughter's 3rd grade teacher last year. She wrote a very creative paragraph that came back with red marks all over it, because it "does NIT answer the question!".

Although I am certainly not a parent, nor am I a qualified educator, I would think that one of the most important lessons a child (anyone, for that matter) can learn is that nothing is ever "right" - in order to truly learn and understand something you must question and challenge it and formulate your own opinions and answers. Furthermore, having this ability also helps a person realize that he or she is indeed capable of doing anything they have their heart set on. Parents and educators that guide their children in this way of thinking are providing one of the greatest gifts they could ever hope to give.

I am well aware of this "only one way - my way - is right" attitude (particularly in a math or math-oriented class; I believe you once related back to an experience you had that was similar to this problem) and find it not only detrimental to the learning experience and creativity but also very demeaning to one�s intelligence. I do not think it is hard to see that some of the brightest individuals in history did not reach a high level of excellence by conforming to someone else�s way of thinking or simply accepting what everyone else did � they questioned and challenged.

Elouise has posted some of Aiden's textual work

On the teacher and quotation marks & comma : in an electronic medium that particular reading and punctuation could be offered as a version.... long time ago texts were written without punctuation, it being supplied by the act of reading aloud.

Kozol has an interesting take on this. He thinks kids, especially those who are relying on their education to make their way in the world, are deprived when teachers allow too much freedom in English and math--which would seem a funny idea from someone who was so influential in the free school movement. His argument is that there *is* a correct way to use these tools, and that students need to be aware of this. In other words, there *is* a "right answer" and a teacher that does not make this clear to the student is neglecting his or her duty and obligation to the student.

There has to be a balance between not impinging on the rights and creativity of the child (or student of any age), and providing him or her with tools that will actually be of use. A colleague recently told her students (university students) that she would immediately stop reading essays that used "i" or "ur" and return them with an F. (That this is even happening at a university is scary.) Why, because she is mean? Not at all. Because you have to know the rules before you break them.

One of the things I love about programming--even though I am a neophyte--is that you can be very creative within a system with a great number of formal rules. IN fact, I have a feeling that creativity thrives within systems with formal, but extensible, rules.

As for the fifth sentence, it may be right, and it may be wrong, depending on Alex's intended meaning. The ideal solution would have been for the teacher to talk to Alex and determine the intended meaning, and make use of the oportunity to talk about the two ways the sentence can be structured and why they mean different things. When you find a school/teacher who has the time/class size to do that, let me know.




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This page contains a single entry by Liz Lawley published on September 28, 2003 11:44 PM.

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