Yesterday's post was all about the 2-sentence journals that I tried with my students this year. Once we got rolling with a few mini-lessons on word choice and imagery, I thought that I should create an opportunity for students to share their work. Writers will usually sharpen their writing when their audience grows from one teacher to 25 classmates. I introduced the idea of....The Battle.
Battles usually took place on Mondays. Students could choose any of their journals from the previous week to use for the competition. They could make final edits and revisions in preparation for showing their work to their classmates.
I gave students yellow Post-It notes for their final copies. They put them in a stack on a chair in the front of the room. My original plan was to "publish" the notes by sticking them to the huge white board at the front of the room, so they could browse through their classmates' gallery of entries. Post-It notes do not stick to my white board for more than five seconds.
Plan B: I fired up my document camera, and placed the entries in heats of four. I tried to group them topically. If four students wrote about their cats, I put them in a set together. By popular vote, students chose one of the four to make it to the final round.
Winners were awarded something ridiculous. I would find an old kids' meal toy or grope around in my desk for something obscure. The stranger, the better...as far as the kids are concerned. A checker that had been long separated from its brothers was one of the most coveted awards.
As time went on, the Battles were intensified. Some entries did not make the initial cut. If that week's journals were supposed to include sensory imagery, and it wasn't there, it's fair to all contenders that you do not allow that journal to compete. I would not advise you to ever make any cuts because of spelling. If you've been teaching for a few years, you know that some of your best writers sometimes have the worst spelling for a variety of reasons that have nothing to do with laziness.
Please also remember that the idea is not to have a writer embarrass his or herself, so using the same color Post-It notes for the class helps with anonymity. Also,if you know that a child is sensitive about spelling or handwriting issues, it's fair for you to help him/ her by doing the spelling/ writing...not the composing though. It is a competition.
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