Thursday, May 20, 2010

Everything I Need to Know About Writing I Learned in Grade School

Just a quick note before I start my post--Today is the last day to apply to become our next MMW blogger. See this post. We have really enjoyed the entries so far and will be using the submissions as guest posts really soon.

I've been working in a school since January, and one thing that really mesmorized me was the instructional signs in the classrooms about writing. The school I work at only goes to thrid grade so they are only learning the basics at this point. But what I realized looking at these itemized lessons on writing is that in writing that's all there is, the basics. Oh sure, you can pay hundreds of dollars to take classes on how to write the best novel, but when it comes down to it they will only tell you the same things you learned in grade school...well maybe they'll use bigger words. I think that is what's so great and so overwhelming about writing. You only need to know the basics to be a writer and on the other hand, there's no secret out there waiting for you. Just alot of practice and hard work!

So without further ado, here's the instructions on the signs lining the hallways of the school I work at (I got some funny looks standing in the hallway to write these down.)

Sound Ideas:

* It all makes sense.

* I know the topic well.

* I have included the most interesting details.

* My paper has a purpose.

* Once you start reading, you won't want to stop.

Powerful Word Choice:

* This is the best way to say this.

* My words create mind pictures.

* I've tried new ways to say everyday things.

* Listen to the power in my verbs.

* Some of the words and phrases linger in my mind.

Good Organization:

* My beginning will interest the reader.

* Everything ties together.

* It builds to the good parts.

* You can follow it easily.

* At the end it feels finished and makes you think.

Smooth Sentence Fluency:

* My sentences begin in different ways.

* Some sentences are short and some are long.

* It just sounds good as I read it aloud--it flows.

* My sentences have power and punch.

* My sentences make sense.

Individual Voice:

* This really sounds like me.

* I've been honest and written what I think and feel.

*Can you feel my commitment to the topic?

* I want you to experience my writing with me.

* I know why I'm writing and who my audience is.

* I bet you'll want to read this to someone.

Correct Conventions:

* I don't have many mistakes in my paper.

* I have used capitals correctly.

* Periods, commas, exclamation marks, and quotation marks are in the right places.

* Almost every word is spelled correctly.

* I remembered to indent each paragraph.

* It would not take long to get this ready to share.

While I was standing in the hallway writing this all down a first grade boy asked me why I would want to write that down. This was my response, "Because this information is very important if you like to write. Isn't it wonderful that if you want to be a writer someday all you have to do is know the stuff that you are learning in school right now?" He gave me a nice courtesy nod and quickly made his way back to class. Probably thinking about the crazy lady that has to learn about writing in the hallway. But I did feel a measure of excitement over the accessibility of writing to all people. Even Helen Keller wrote several books. Being a writer is exciting and there's no special clubs or expensive degrees that get you there. Just the basics and your own tenacity!

1 comment:

  1. I LOVED THIS POST! Great writing tips. Things I still need to work on.

    This is so, so true, Nikki! When I go help out in my kids' classrooms I've noticed the writing posters on the walls and I've been impressed by how relevant they still are to what I'm working on now.

    It is one thing to know what goes into good writing, but quite another to learn to do it. That's where the years of practice come in. And in defense of writing classes, it is always good to seek out great teachers and study at their feet.



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