December 12th, 2012
Question 3: I am noticing that my 5th grade students are frequently misspelling “high frequency words” in their daily writing (e.g. “whent” for went), as well as using “slang” (“cuz,” “gonna,” “ur,” etc.) I know that editing work can take care of these mistakes, but I am concerned with how often I am seeing this in my classroom on daily assignments that are not meant to be edited. What suggestions do you have to improving this, and how should I make students more accountable for these types of errors?
Jeff’s response: Should students be accountable for using slang in formal writing? Sure. I respect how you already know this can be dealt with in the editing process. But whent for went is another issue that’s not about texting or slang. So, let’s deal with slang for now.
It makes sense as kids text and instant message or imitate it–as we imitated the adults in our lives—they are going to start letting a few “ur” for your flow into their writing. As you said, it should definitely be edited out of their writing. But then you say, they are doing it in other writing that isn’t meant to be edited. I have to assume you mean a learning log or writer’s notebook entries, notes, reading logs, etc. When you say the writing isn’t to be edited, part of me says why does it matter? If they are the audience for their notes, as long as they can follow it, I don’t see a problem. Ready to kill me? Keep reading.
I do, however, think it’s a conversation we should have with students about purpose and audience. When we write things to be turned in—or that is to have a school audience of any kind, it’s your expectation, as it would be in any job that they have, that writers refrain from shortcut texting language.
High-frequency words like “whent” for “went” and using “than” for “then” are problems of not being held accountable for the words that they use with such high frequency. I have had success with 4-8 graders in this predicament, using word walls and holding them accountable for these 100 high frequency words. Google “high frequency word list” if you don’t know what they are. I highly recommend the work of Patricia Cunningham.
Entry Filed under: Writing