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Showing posts with the label Teaching

Leading a Writing Group - Session 8

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I had four cards, each with a single word: King, Queen, Prince, Princess. Each of the kids drew their card, and then I was left with... Princess. I didn't particularly want to write a princess story at that moment, so I made her a bit unique. But, before we did the writing we covered an important writing subject.


When writing there are two basic sets of tools that you can choose from. You can use narrative devices like flashbacks, foreshadowing, and framing. These are tools that help you to structure your story. You can also use rhetorical devices like rhyming, alliteration, and assonance. These are tools that help you to structure your sentences and paragraphs. The best writers are good at using both narrative devices and rhetorical devices.

Bella drew the Queen card. She wrote a story about a princess that was shortly going to become queen because the queen was passing her position and power on to her daughter. But, the princess's aunt wanted power and was seeking to make bo…

Leading a Writing Group - Session 7

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A crazy conversation. That was our prompt for the day. I went over the idea of dialogue attribution, or dialogue tags. That's where you make sure the reader knows who is saying what.


Lexi took us on a tour of a garden full of personified flowers. The different types of flowers had different personality characteristics. It reminded me a little of Lewis Carroll.

Xavier became trapped in the confines of his own mind and stalled out. We had a talk about it afterward.

Bella wrote about a student trying to convince his master, Master Fufu, to go to war. But the master didn't want to.

And, here's what I did.

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"Just jump, dude! Come on!"

"No."

The cliff wasn't that high, but the space at the bottom was narrow. Maybe too narrow. Jack was understandably hesitant. "I think you should go first, and then I'll go," he said to Jill.

Jill gave him a look. A look that said she didn't believe him, that she wouldn't take no for an an…

Leading a Writing Group - Session 6

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Our prompt went through three evolutions. First, I proposed the idea of interstitials. That's where a sentence has dialogue, then description, then dialogue again. I just think they're cool, and therefore feel like everyone would be interested in them. I also think it lets you see how much a single sentence can really do. Since it didn't seem popular I went to option number two, a scene where the hero and the villain meet for the first time. But, I was asked if the scene could be people other than the hero and the villain meeting. And, of course, I think artistic creativity must necessarily be flexible. Our prompt ended up being, a meeting of two characters.


Xavier did well. We had a small discussion last time about how I don't expect a certain thing to come out of the writing, I don't require anyone to follow the prompts, but I do expect effort. That turned out well. He came up with this story where the names were a mixture of crazy letters. I think that comes fro…

A Story for Henry

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I've told the school that I teach online for repeatedly that the book they have for Henry is too difficult. They won't change it, and I can't change it. It's a complete disservice for the student and the parent. So, I decided to fix it by writing my own story for Henry to read.


It's difficult to make a story on the spot that's exactly at the correct reading level for a student, but I came fairly close on this one, closer than the textbook that I was given. The ideal is to push the student's abilities, just a little. When I went through a course for a volunteer reading program in Muskegon they recommended to read at the level where the student is correct 90 percent of the time, and is stretching themselves 10 percent of the time. Fair enough.

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The cat saw a bird.

The bird was in a tree.

The cat wanted to get the bird.

So he climbed the tree.

When he got to the top, the bird flew away.

The cat looked down at the ground.

It was a long way down.

Th…

A Poem for Henry

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I was teaching Henry online. We had finished reading the book for the class. I asked what he wanted to do: write, ask questions, etc. He wanted to write. I asked if he wanted to write a story. He said that he wanted to write a poem.



Henry came up with this, with a little help.

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A fox
has blue and white,
socks.

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Since he likes foxes I decided to extend that theme and see what happens.

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The fox
trapped in a box
for all of seeming eternity.

Constrained and restrained
boxed within
finding no relief.

He seeks freedom
and finds a wall instead,
and so he struggles
before he goes to bed.

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There are some good insights into the zoological nature of insomnia based on the thoughts of Desmond Morris contained in that little poem.

Then we drew octopuses in the last two minutes of class.

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Leading a Writing Group - Session 4

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I was going to have the prompt be "letters." That could go in a couple of interesting directions: there could be epistolary writing where the story is told in letters, or the story could be about a letter of some sort. But, instead, I wanted to go a little crazy.


I had the kids write down a color, their favorite color or some other color, doesn't matter. Bella had a hard time choosing, but did eventually. Then, I had them select a weapon.

Last week the idea of a stupid ninja came up in the group for some reason, a ninja in all black that was trying to hide in snow and failing.

The prompt? Write a story about a stupid ninja that wears that color and uses that weapon. I chose purple and tank. Yes, a tank.

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Jonathan pulled his tank up to the facility and hopped out. His purple uniform glistened in the sun.

He had been in ninja training for six weeks now. Since they were focused on the art of war he had thought getting a tank would impress people, but it didn…

A Poem for Joshua

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A couple of days ago I went through a book with a student of mine named Joshua. He's pretty good at English. He's 9, he likes reading, and he likes telling me about the stories he's reading. From what I've heard from Joshua he has an excellent English teacher at his school in China, a chap from England. I asked Joshua about writing, and he asked if I wanted him to write a three paragraph essay. Lol. No, I don't want him to write a three paragraph essay, I want him to be able to write anything he wants. I asked if he wanted to work on how to write a story and he offered to write some poetry. That works.


Joshua wrote a poem based on using the letters of his name for the beginning of individual lines. That's called an acrostic poem, I looked it up. He wrote the poem on a piece of paper, instead of the screen, and read it to me.

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July is my birthday
On my desk is an elephant
Sunshine and shine
Haha, I am happy
Upside down, Andy is my friend
Andy is my …

Leading a Writing Group - Session 3

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A writing prompt can be anything, since anything can be in a story. Truly, everything has a story, since life is a story. But, there is a little bit of an art in selecting writing prompts. This last week I went with "door." That's it. It's wide open, but it's powerful. Doors are thresholds, they are mysteries, they are the point where something changes, barriers that open.


As it turns out, Lexi had already been drawing a door before I gave the prompt. Funny how that works sometimes.
I think the prompt might have been a little too open. There were too many options and the kids didn't naturally add any detail to the door. It probably would have been good to have pictures of doors that they selected, or something like that. This next session I'm probably going to go with letters, and see if anyone is up for trying a little epistolary. That's where you write the story in letters, or some other documents like that. Then, I think I might start getting wilde…

Leading a Writing Group - Session 2

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The prompt for today was dialogue. The story could be anything the kids wanted, it just had to include dialogue, or people talking. Some stories are all dialogue, some stories have no dialogue, most fiction writing is a mix. No matter what kind of writing you do, it's good to play with dialogue.


I find these types of writing exercises interesting. I usually have no idea what I'm going to do. If I do have an idea about what I'm going to do it always comes out completely different, nothing like I had imagined.

We talked about dialogue a little bit. I went over the idea of interstitial sentences because I thought Lexi, the 14 year old, would be interested in that. An interstitial sentence is when there is one sentence that starts with someone talking, then in the middle there's some description, and then the person is talking again. For instance, if a woman is standing at the fridge it might be like this: "John! I thought you said you were going to," she turned …

Un-Birthday Presents

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I've found the normal method of giving gifts on birthdays and holidays to be boring. Oddly enough, I just found out today that Humpty Dumpty thought the same thing.


I'm reading "Through the Looking-Glass" by Lewis Carroll with one of my students, Carrie. It's the sequel to "Alice in Wonderland". Today we read a section where Humpty Dumpty is explaining the concept of un-birthday presents to Alice.

I've thought the same thing for years. Everyone is both expecting and already getting gifts on their birthday and on holidays. What's better is to give them one at some other time, when it's more interesting to receive something you aren't expecting. Here's part of the conversation between Humpty Dumpty and Alice.

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‘It’s a cravat, child, and a beautiful one, as you say. It’s a present from the White King and Queen. There now!’

‘Is it really?’ said Alice, quite pleased to find that she had chosen a good subject, after all.

‘They…

Leading a Writing Group - Session 1

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It's an odd story, how I came to be part of a writing group yesterday.


I went to the Muskegon Comic Con event in the spring. It was fun. I walked into the game room and was greeted by a perky woman named Holly. She convinced me to join a one-off Dungeons and Dragons role-playing game. It's an activity that has always seemed fun, but I've never found the time to participate in that world.

I invited a few people and a couple of kids joined in. Yuke led our session while also managing the gaming sales table. It was a grand adventure that took us deep into a cave looking for buried treasure. Three of the five people came out alive. One girl was able to snatch some of the gold from us, but Xavier and I were able to get most of it. Xavier turned out to be Holly's son.

While talking to Holly after the game she mentioned that she runs a homeschool group that uses the Muskegon Fab Lab, where people can work with 3-D printers, laser etching, virtual reality systems, and more. I …

How MACOS Could Have Been Better

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Man: A Course of Study was an education program developed and implemented in the 1970s based on the work of psychologist Jerome Bruner. The idea was to study the complete lifespan of different animals in greater and greater complexity. An American politician was able to eventually kill the program because he didn't like the Inuit, or Eskimos, which were studied in the program.


There is a good documentary film on the political controversy called "Through These Eyes". I won't dive into that very much. Instead, I'm going to look at the merit of the program and how it could have been better. Here's the link to the documentary: https://www.nfb.ca/film/through_these_eyes/?fbclid=IwAR3jy-qwGxG_mXlgxGrKZqXdGHHWUCeD4a2TojmMJsb8z5i7LQQWNIZm8ws

The basic idea of the program was to study the whole life cycle of salmon, then herring gulls, then baboons, then the Netsilik Eskimos. Studying animal behavior is quite a bit different than studying science, technology, engineer…

Stories are Like Math, with Two Examples from Students

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I started teaching my first student a little over two years ago. His name was Parker. He is still my student.


Parker

Parker started the third grade this year and was very happy to learn that he is more advanced in English math than his classmates are in Chinese math (he is from, and lives in, China). His class is studying how to do the perimeters and areas of squares and rectangles. Parker and I went through that many months ago, and we went through the Pythagorean theorem (how to find the hypotenuse of a triangle with A^2+B^2=C^2) a few months ago, along with how to find the area of triangles. Just recently we are basically through how to find the circumference and area of circles. Parker likes math, but still, learning this type of thing can be boring. So, here's what we do.

We start off by reviewing things, we do work on terminology but our main focus is on the math skills themselves. We do a square, a rectangle, and a triangle. Then we focus a little more on a circle because th…

A Story for Linda

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I often have interesting classes with students. For instance, this article isn't even going to be about the six-year-old from two days ago that is fluent in English and when the book wasn't working shared a 30 minute conversation with me that included her desire to be a DNA scientist so that she can resurrect the dinosaurs, and her further plans to become an engineer to design a lightsaber to fight off the dinosaurs, which was all followed by our debate about whether pterodactyls would be able to kill t-rex babies better or whether t-rexes would be able to kill pterodactyl babies better. Nope, this article is about a ten-year-old named Linda.


Linda is learning phonics and she's doing pretty well. She can read early children's' books. By the time we had come to the end of the material (I don't select the teaching material when I'm working with this company) we still had a few minutes of class left and she had seemed a bit bored with the material anyway. Unfo…

Eleven Comments From ESL Students

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It's interesting to get comments from students. Through one of the companies that I teach for I have an almost random selection of students. A student pops up, a workbook pops up, and we start. That's where these comments come from. They are mostly translated from Chinese into English, so it might sound a little odd.


Here they are, in reverse chronological order.

1 - Thank you for your patience

2 - Thanks tor teaching me English toningt.In fact,you should teach my little brother,but he is very shy and it is a first day to learn English.I hope you don't angry with him. Thank you!!

3 - Very patient teacher who will guide children in communication, good teacher

4 - Thank you! Ttacher.

5 - I am sorry, teacher, I will not send my heart, only one, do not mind. I really like your class and I'm glad to meet you

6 - You are a good teacher. You teach well. Thank you.

7 - Teacher you are very good ! I like you soo much ! Your class is very fun ! I will study English forever,and I…

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