What are they Thinking?


picture of pen and paperFor more excellent work see http://sjbwriting.wordpress.com

It’s a question I’ve often asked myself when I’ve read children’s work and seen capital letters in the middle of sentences; lines and lines of writing without a full stop, and then a random one placed for no apparent reason; and exclamation marks in the middle of instructions.

So why do they do that?

Let’s start with capitalisation in the middle of sentences.

What’s that all about then? “Sir told us that names have to start with capital letters,” they told me when I asked. And “apple” is the name of a fruit, and “oak” is the name of a tree.

Unfortunately, somewhere down the school they were also told that nouns are naming words (yes, I know, I think I’ve been guilty of that one as well), so now every noun has a capital letter.

How about full stops?

I’ve been that teacher that nags the class “Don’t forget to put full stops at the end of every sentence!” and I know I’m not the only one. When I’ve asked the children I’ve been tutoring what they know about full stops, they happily parrot, “You have to put one at the end of every sentence.” They know. So why don’t they do it?

Because it seems, a lot of children have no idea what a sentence is. So they just keep on writing till they have no more ideas, and then put a full stop. Then when they think of a new idea, they start a new sentence.

What about those exclamation marks that appear at the end of sentences such as, “First, take the bread out of the packet! Next, get the butter out of the fridge!”? I was baffled when I first asked a child, whose writing target was to use exclamation marks correctly, when he thought he should use them and he told me that you had to use them every time you were telling somebody how to do something. It seems he thought it was called an explanation mark! And he’s not alone. I’ve seen children who all thought the same things, so it’s obviously a fairly common misconception.

All these things are really easy to correct when you have time to work one-to-one with the children – but not so easy when you have 29 other children needing your attention, because no matter how much you want to you just don’t have time to spend half an hour with one child.

That’s why I really love my job.

So what can we do?

Keep Trying!

For more excellent work see http://sjbwriting.wordpress.com.


One thought on “What are they Thinking?

  1. I once saw a YouTube video that said the following:

    A noun is any word that can follow the word “the”. SO much easier than determining if a word is a person, place, thing, idea, or other.

    You are correct about students not knowing what a sentence is. I’m continually amazed at how much students can parrot what things _are_ yet have no idea what they mean.

    My biggest example: Students describe the definition of a reading strategy. When I give them a text and ask me to show them an example of that reading strategy, they cannot do it.

    There is definition. There is application. The two do not always go together.

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