Oh, how the teacher did not appreciate my creativity. I am not sure why I did that. I loved to write. I was writing in diaries (that is what we called journals back in the day) and I was already writing poetry good enough to be entered in contests. I guess I just thought that was cute to respond that way. (My father did not think it was cute one bit).
But that assignment has remained in my memory all these years (I am 51, so it was 40 years ago). She was using prompts before we called them prompts. As a teacher they are called suggestions or motivators. Well, I have been thinking of ways that teacher could have gotten me more involved in the assignment. I mean I must have lacked motivation. Back in those days teachers taught in what we now call "teacher-directed". The students were not involved in any hands on learning. We were given the material and expected to "get it" without much encouragement from the teachers. Well, that is not how I teach. I believe in "teachable moments",hands-on activities, and student-directed activities. I believe the students should be involved in their learning experiences. Make the assignment more real to them and they remember and learn better.
So, what would I do if I were to give my students that same writing assignment?
First, I would take the children on a field trip. If it were possible that is. We would actually go to the woods. We would explore our surroundings and our classroom that day would be in the woods. Then we would go home that day and consider what we would write in our descriptive paragraph.
If we lived in a school district that would not allow us to take a field trip to the woods or if there was no woods to be found, we could go to the library and research "the woods" via through actual books. (No online research for this assignment allowed.) And then after learning what we could and observing pictures in the books, we would go home and finish our descriptive paragraph.
I would also extend this assignment and have the students get into groups. One group would be assigned researching "animals that live in the woods." Another group would research "the environment in the woods, such as trees, moss, etc.)
Another group would research the different states that have "woods". And so on. We would probably discuss these topics over the course of a month. Take as long as we needed to. They could even bring in twigs and insects and leaves and such that is found in the woods and put in our science center. Oh, the many ways I could present "I was walking through the woods" assignment.
Why I just wrote that I fell in a hole and died I really do not know. But if I had a student today who did that same thing I would not give him/her an F. I would allow the student to explain the reason for the response. Then I would give that person a second chance to write a full paragraph. Students do need to respect the assignment and complete it even if they do not agree with it. So, if the student had a legitimate reason for responding that way, I would consider the grade appropriately.
I am thinking how my teacher, back in 1971, would have presented that assignment in the first place. She would have said, here is your assignment. We would have probably been told to write a descriptive paragraph, but no more direction than that. So, I bet I was just not encouraged or motivated enough. I was ADhD back then before the disorder/syndrome was ever identified. Now we would recognize the characteristics of a child with ADhD and accommodate that child with assignments that would allow her/him to do the best job possible. We teach to the different learning styles nowadays also. I know that I learn as an adult with a hand-on approach (kinesthetic learning style)as well as visual learning. If that is how I learn now it stands to reason I would have learned that way in grade school. All I got in sixth grade was written assignments on the chalk board. The teacher said here is your assignment and now do it. Not much else in ways of teaching to the child's learning style. So, I probably was bored and that was my way of finishing such a silly assignment (silly in a sixth grader's opinion silly).
But the more I think about it I believe I just had no idea what I would see in a woods and had no idea how to finish the paragraph. I lived in a navy town in California. Right outside of my house was a four lane highway and right passed the highway was the naval shipyard. I saw hundreds of battle ships, hospital ships, submarines and navy personnel. But I had never been to a woods. I went to a school where we never had long time friends because every one moved so often. No one stayed the night with anyone that lived in the woods. This made no sense to me then. We moved to Oklahoma the summer between sixth and seventh grade. Then I learned what the woods was. But when the assignment was given this student had no idea what to write about so I just fell in a hole and died.
What would I write now? Oh, I could write so much. If I were in sixth grade and lived in Oklahoma I could write the colors of the leaves in the woods. I could write about the animals I saw while playing in the woods. My first experiences in the woods was with my new friends and we would explore for hours. No two days are the same in the woods. Walk to the same area you were in the day before and there would be so many changes. It was also those days of discovery in the woods that we realized I had environmental allergies and my days of asthma began. (Never had any breathing problems until we moved to Oklahoma.) So my experiences in the woods are definitely more successful since I actually moved to an area that had "a woods" to relate to.
Has the ways we teach and the philosophies of teaching changed that much over the years? I am glad I am a teacher now. Technology allows for so many ways to teach a child. But I also am a firm believer that students still need to experience what they can hands-on. And children need to be exposed to books more now than ever. Today they just put the information in a search engine and click there is the answer. Children still need to know how to open a book and find the wonders of the written word and pictures first hand. I am a lover of technology, but if you want your child to be a successful student introduce them to the library, to books, and teach them how to use a dictionary and research books. Need help with your child using their imaginations? Get them away from the computer, from the television, and from entertainment games. That is a wonderful way to help encourage imagination. And the children will learn how to use descriptive words if they experience it for themselves and not rely on wikipedia, google, yahoo, dogpile, bing, and other search engines for the answers. Get them involved and when something is worth learning and they did it themselves it will be the best learning experience. Taking pride in work they do themselves, ownership, is the what deserves an A. Don' let your child fall into the black hole of internet and die academically. Get involved in their learning experience and you will find each day you are learning too.
That particular writing assignment has caused me to think of many more prompts. See the posts of all the prompts I got just from my sixth grades teacher's prompt from years ago. Don't know why I even thought of that today, but it was worth sharing. Tell me what happened when you walked through the woods or on a beach or in a mall, depending on the area you live....