Mom, can you help?

“Mom, can you help?”

It was a September Sunday afternoon. I was in 7th grade.  The first year of junior high.  I distinctly remember the exact place and the exact time I uttered these words.  My geography teacher assigned a research project the week before: “Pick a natural resource found in the United States and describe its impact on the economy.”

“Um, what?”

Natural resources – check.  Economy – kinda check.  Impact?  No clue.

Basically, I was asked to write my first ever paper with a thesis statement, reasons and supporting evidence.  I was asked to do this without ANY explicit writing instruction, of course.

I think back to that moment when it was first assigned and the immediate panic that came over me.  Did anyone else feel overwhelmed?  Did any of my classmates feel confused?   I was too embarrassed to show my true colors and reach out to others around me. Did they know something I didn’t?

Thank heavens for my mom.  She got it.  She knew how to break it down.  Start with an opinion and think about how I could support it.  Find some evidence that makes my argument stronger.  Paragraphs.  Transitions.  Evidence. Introduction. Conclusion.  I got this.  It wasn’t so scary with her help.

My mom gave me the foundation for every essay required after that seventh grade assignment.  She gave me the structure and confidence to tackle future writing endeavors, those with little instructional support.  I am still to this day so very grateful for her patience and guidance.  And I think today what writing instruction looks like in a Kinder classroom, a first, second, third, fourth and fifth grade classroom.  The tools we are giving our students today surpasses any “free write” or “journal writing” I did through my schooling.  We know better now, thanks to the work of Graves, Fletcher, Calkins et al.  It is because of these writing pioneers that our 2nd graders are quoting their favorite books, that 3rd graders are crafting bold thesis statements, and our 5th graders are constructing organized, developed essays with evidence galore.

I was lucky enough to have my writing teacher at home.  Today, I am lucky for the writing teachers I get to work with side by side.  My 7th grade self secretly thanks them.

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6 thoughts on “Mom, can you help?

  1. We were assigned a research paper as Seniors in Honors English with very little support or guidance. I’m pretty sure my first-graders are more confident about writing than we were way back when.

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  2. I just talked with my students about this the other day. I teach fifth grade and asked what would they do if they were told to write a paper in middle or high school with little instruction. I was happily surprised by their responses. They really have been listening to me.

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  3. So much has changed that I’m grateful for in writing instruction. I’m so glad to be learning alongside skilled writing teachers to coach our young writers all along the way.

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  4. Thank you for sharing your 7th grade self. I could write about still having to wear socks in seventh grade. That’s what my mom made me do…this actually will noodle around in my head for a while and I will probably write about it.
    How lucky to have a writing teacher at home.

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