This is a guest column by Marcy Winograd and Jackie Hirtz. Every week, these two veteran teachers will answer your questions on everything from homework strategies to learning math to organization. Submit your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org with Dear Marcy and Jackie in the subject line.
Q. My grandson often shares his schoolwork with me. He’s very proud of his stories but honestly, I am shocked at his writing. Apparently his third grade teacher’s philosophy is to allow her students to write stories without paying attention to grammar or spelling. My daughter assures me that when he’s older he will learn to edit his work, but for now the teacher (and my daughter) do not want to stifle creativity. Until I hear your answer, I will stay quiet.
A. We also feel that writing should be allowed to flow creatively from the pen (or pencil, in this case)—in the first draft. This is because the first draft is usually not the last draft. If the teacher’s philosophy is to allow the first draft to stand, replete with grammar and spelling errors, we disagree. Praise your grandson’s writing ability, take him through the writing process of revising his work for clarity, diction, character, etc., and then show him how to make his story sing by editing the final draft. He will have a leg up on the other students in the class.
Q. My 14 year-old daughter grew a third appendage called the iPhone, and it’s getting in the way of her school work. No amount of warning her about limiting its use works with her. Short of taking away her phone, how do we get our daughter to concentrate on her homework and participate in a dinner conversation?
A. Take away the phone – at least for a little while, until she develops the habit of completing her homework and giving polysyllabic answers at the dinner table. Undoubtedly, your daughter is also texting, checking email, and playing cyber games on her phone during class when her teacher is trying to teach. Cell phones can be addictive, with teens and tweens compelled to stay connected to their friends and social network at all times, regardless of what is happening around them. This is the opposite of what the Buddhists call mindfulness because our teens’ minds are focused on a virtual world, as opposed to the real one. Ultimately, you want your daughter to develop enough self-discipline to regulate her own behavior. Ask her how her constant cell use is interfering with her school work and family relationships. Tell her how it makes you feel when she chooses to text rather than talk to you at meal time. Once she recognizes the problem, encourage her to set goals – cell phone free hours – and a strategy for rewarding herself if she meets those goals.
Formerly an English teacher, Marcy Winograd now teaches government at a public LAUSD high school in South Los Angeles. Jackie Hirtz, MS Ed., a writer and writing coach, taught elementary school for seven years. Together, Marcy and Jackie have written for children’s television, print, and new media. Their most recent project is the tween novel Lola Zola and the Lemonade Crush available on Amazon.