Authors in Action: Jeff Anderson

May 22nd, 2008

During his visits to classrooms around the country, Jeff Anderson often notices a shift in tone when teachers talk about editing and grammar. “I’ve been in classrooms where teachers are doing a lot of great things with writer’s workshop and craft lessons and then they get to editing and they say, ‘Okay, guys. We have to prepare for the test and so now we’ve got to do some editing.’ It sounds like ‘take your castor oil,'” says Anderson.

And the typical editing activity isn’t much more inviting. In the classic daily oral language drill, a teacher puts up a sentence filled with errors and students shout out all the things that are wrong with it. Again, Anderson wonders about the messages that students are taking away: “The brain absorbs the patterns it sees all day; I don’t think it’s a good idea to look at bad patterns.” Instead of leading students on a scavenger hunt for errors, Anderson posts a wonderful mentor sentence and invites students to notice its characteristics and then to imitate its structure. When students immediately start shouting out errors they see in the mentor sentence, Anderson slows them down. “Wait, wait. This year I’m going to put up sentences that I like, that I love, and let’s see what we notice about them.”

Anderson demonstrated the activity in a recent webcast with a group of a dozen teachers and staff developers from around the country. You can listen in to the 45-minute webcast and see Jeff’s slides by clicking here.

Entry Filed under: Exploring Words,Writing

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