Saturday, October 10, 2009

ABI: blank to B

Time for a little ABI success story.

Freddy demands to know why he is FLUTTERing (behind). "Is it because of this?" he asks, holding up a completely blank open response (essay) stamped Revise/Return. "I don't do these," says he, "I don't know how, and I don't do them."

Now, he has two examples - one a model, one from peerwork - in his notes. Sigh. Nevertheless ...

Freddy agrees to come after school for help. I have prepared a sheet with organized notes at the top and the first three sentences written. I show him how we use the notes to make the sentences. I show him the pattern we use. I help him get started on the next sentences. He writes the final sentences on his own. When he is done, he proudly hands me the paper. I study it carefully, declare it 4-point (perfect) work. I chide him, "Don't you tell me you don't know how to write these papers; you've just done it!" He beams.

Compare that to a zero in the gradebook.

Of course, not every child needs one-on-one help. In another class, more than half left that open response blank, and none of the written papers were solid. This was not an opportunity to pass out zeros. It was an opportunity to teach.

Yes, I had modeled similar questions and answers, and kids had worked out responses in pairs in the prior weeks -- but a couple of examples are not enough for many students. So, as a class, we discussed the prompt, found relevant examples, and organized notes to use in our answer. I posted the sentence starters and wrote the first sentences from our notes. By the end of class, most had picked up the rhythm and completed their second try (well, first attempt for many!) for homework. This exercise alone was enough to help many more succeed. There were still some who checked out, or who copied words but not ideas. They, like Freddy, eventually will work with me alone or in small groups -- sometimes instead of Enrichment, sometimes after school, sometimes in Academic Detention. The point is, each will have experienced writing a perfect answer before the next test. Over time, they will need less support. I take the training wheels off in January, I tell them. But for now, I offer as much structure, support, scaffolding, hand-holding ... you name it ... as I can, so that each knows s/he, like Freddy, has already written a perfect answer.

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