We won a dream golf trip at a charity fundraiser five years ago. That’s how I found myself–a total nongolfer–at a luxury course with my husband arranging for an hour-long golf lesson. My coach helped fit us with clubs and then had us hit a bucket of balls at the driving range. “Hitting straight is better than hitting hard,” he encouraged. I didn’t really hit straight or hard, but I did take some chunks out of the turf. He taught me good habits and gave me a crash course on etiquette. At the end of the 60 minutes he pointed to our cart and the course beyond and said, “Have fun.”
What he didn’t say was, “No heading out to the course until you hit these 50 balls correctly.”
Can you imagine? I was practicing my shots so that I could head out to course and play–albeit badly–a round of golf.
When a teacher says to me, “I don’t let my struggling second graders plan across multiple pages because they aren’t even writing complete sentences yet.” What comes to mind is, I couldn’t hit the balls well, but I still got to golf. Even without perfecting my driving range abilities, I chose my irons, drove a golf cart and walked… a lot. For that entire afternoon, I was a golfer and learned about what golfers know.
The teacher’s intention is to have her students experience success before she asks more of them. I wonder though, what more might those writers do in the context of the real work?
So let them write, I say.
Let them write words before they can form all the letters perfectly and have all accurate sounds.
Let them write strings of words and thoughts before they know for sure what a complete sentence is.
Let them write groups of sentences before they are certain on how to paragraph their writing.
After all, what’s the worst that can happen? If we ask too much of them, we “catch them back” as Debbie Miller says. We reteach and scaffold. The other option is to expect too little of them and make every learning attempt super safe.
Thanks Coach for letting me approximate golf. In return, I’ll let them write.