Thursday, November 4, 2010
Personal Writing Portfolders
Children--actually, PEOPLE--retain better if they learn in context. We remember math vocabulary when we use the words in meaningful ways. Scientific terms become real when we use them during a real, hands-on experiment.
I spent countless hours in school learning rules. Few rules stuck. I want to make better use of my child's time through engaging, in-context learning. Here's one way I teach writing in context...
We've been making Portfolders for years. Originally, we used them for reflection on learning. Later, we made writing resource Portfolders.
Each child has a single Portfolder for use during writing. When a child is working on revision and comes to something he doesn't know--grammar, word choice, punctuation--we do a "mini lesson."
When do I use its vs. it's?
The child is revising a piece of writing. S/he doesn't know whether to use an apostrophe with "its." You discuss the uses and look it up in a reference book, if needed. (Note: One of my favorite little writing reference books is The Painless Path to Proper English Usage containing cartoon illustrations with words like effect/affect.) You write a brief explanation on the front of a notecard. On the back of the notecard, the child records two sentences featuring each use of the word. (If it's a punctuation rule, the child writes a sentence using the punctuation on the back of the card.)
Index cards are mounted in a staggered fashion with labels on the bottom of each card so the rule can be found with a quick glance. I use packing tape to adhere each card to the folder.
I began this yesterday with my 8yo. (I did it years ago with my older children.) We made three cards. I told him we were done with writing. His response? "Can't we make some more??" :)
He remembers the rules and conventions of writing when learned in the context of his own work. He values the information because he has a need to know.
And that's real life.