Thursday, October 17, 2019

What a Fourth Grader Learned About Superfluous Words

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     Today's featured student writing sample illustrates the benefit of teaching editorial skills simultaneously with writing skills: to enhance and encourage concise, vivid writing and a heightened awareness of word power. The writing sample also shows that students can learn even more from a writing or editing exercise when asked to recount it in a short essay, thus solidifying the understanding of what they have learned and why they needed to learn it. Such a self-directed, reflective component in a lesson enriches learning more than any teacher-led review.

     After teaching my fourth-grade student, Ethan, about the power of concise, vivid word choices, and about how to identify superfluous words to delete, I gave him some editing exercises. His eyes lit up when he realized how many unnecessary words he could scratch out of a bloated sentence without changing the meaning. Kids often love to cut out words, I've found, even more than they enjoy writing them; editing gives us power over words, even as it gives more power to the words themselves. Ethan's reflective essay paragraph (see the picture below), which he wrote after the editorial lesson, showed me that he truly understood the concept of "less is more" in writing. It also showed me that this young writer is rapidly learning to write memorable, moving words!