Weaving Grammar and Mechanics
into Writer's Workshop
The picture has a dollop of peanut butter on one edge, a smear of
grape jelly on the other, and an X across the whole thing. I cut it
out of a magazine for homework when I was six years old. [Look
for words that begin with W,] my teacher, Mrs. Evans, had said.
She was the one who marked the X, spoiling my picture. She
pointed. [This is a picture of family, Hollis. A mother, M, a
father, F, a brother, B, a sister, S. They're standing in front of
their house, H. I don't see a W word here.]
I opened my mouth to say: How about a W for wish, or a W
for want, or W for [Wouldn't it be loverly,] like the song the
music teacher had taught us?
But Mrs. Evans was at the next table by that time, shushing
me over her shoulder.
Patricia Reilly Giff, Pictures of Hollis Woods
As well-intentioned as editing marks may be, I know how most students see these corrections: as Xs over their souls, their desires, their thoughts. They view markings on their writing much like six-year-old Hollis Woods does in the novel excerpt above.
Often by the time students reach middle school, they hate writing. With the testing mania of late, the problem has only worsened.
Since grammar and mechanics are means to effective writing, I know the most important activity my students can engage in is composing text. Student