George Lucas Educational Foundation

"personal" writing

"personal" writing

Related Tags: 6-8 Middle School
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In a lit group I lead, they had an assignment to keep a journal while they read a book. In this journal they were asked to make personal connections to the book ie - this character made these goals- what goals do you have? this character learned about respect, write about a time yadayadayada... i have one student who just refuses to go down this road. this is not a new issue, he has been going to the school since fourth grade (now a 7th grader) and this repeatedly comes up. just curious if anyone has any thoughts on how hard I should press this. In the past, we have let it slide or given him options, but now, as he gets older I'm less inclined... thoughts? caroline

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Whitney Hoffman's picture
Whitney Hoffman
Producer LD Podcast, Digital Media Consultant, Author

Writing and sharing personal connections is asking kids to be emotionally vulnerable to others. Is there a trust issue between you and the student? Does the student feel ridiculed by his peers? Does he have a writing problem overall, or can you ask him to write something else?
(I have a 7th grade at home and they are a difficult bunch)
But this kid has also learned he can refuse and no one will make him, so:
What are the real goals here? To identify with characters? to connect to the literature or to write or all of the above? Can you find a book he would like to do on his own that's more resonant to him that meets the objectives? Can you give him a list of writing prompts that he needs to choose let's say, three out of ten and write at least one page?
(Some kids are terrified of what their handwriting looks like, their grammar is like, spelling, etc. so they will just refuse to go there...)

Some of the prompts you can offer should be silly and fun, just to get him writing- such as : I hate it when my teacher asks me to....(He has to write a page about what he hates with reasons supporting the feeling)
It bugs me when my parents/siblings ......; My favorite summer vacation memory is.....; What I would do differently if I was a teacher.....; If I ran the school...;
These are great for resistant kids because it lets them get out their frustration while giving you some insight into their writing process and why they are so frustrated or stubborn at the same time.

Rick LaVoie and Dr. Bob Brooks talk about how most kids will do absolutely anything to avoid public humiliation- become difficult, a class clown, whatever it takes. I think there might be some fear of failure in the resistance, but until you can kind of sort out the underlying cause, you won;t solve the problem. And choosing to ignore it is not helping this student in the long run. These are often the kid of kids who need to know you care and are invested in them, even when they treat you rather dismissively.

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