Both of my boys have their own blog set up. They are free to use it to type things of interest and my older son does many writing assignments on his blog. My Kindergartener has always been a child who loved to write. I have used the whole language method of writing instruction for him this school year. In so doing I have encouraged inventive spelling and not gone over his writing to make any corrections. I have focused on letting him express himself through writing. He did complete Write About Me, Grade 1 this school year too, but it was approached the same way where no corrections were made to his writing. He has had phonics and reading instruction, but no other language arts instruction this school year. He is currently reading beginning chapter books. Here is a sample of his writing from the beginning of the year:
Mi FAVRIT culr
Mi Favrit Culr is blu aed Oing lut Gren aed pic aed Drc Gren tas All
Interpreted it is titled My Favorite Color. The text says “My favorite color is blue and orange light green and pink and dark green. That’s all.”
Here is a sample from the end of the school year:
big and small obby…
wellkum to the big and small !OBBY! YOU START AS A SMALL GIY
THEN YOU GO BIG HYUOG LARG
WOHO I THINK YOU WILL LUYK IT I DO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
It it Titled Big and Small Obby (part of a computer game he loves) The text says “Welcome to the big and small obby. You start as a small guy. Then you go big huge large. Woo hoo. I think you will like it. I do!”
If I compare the two I see an improvement in his skills. In the first sample there is no punctuation and the writing is limited to one line. Most of his posts from the beginning of the school year were short. In the later sample he has started to use exclamation marks and used spacing to differentiate sentences/thoughts. Also spelling has shown improvement. In the first sample he only spelled two words correctly – is and all which gives him about 11% accuracy. In the second sample he spelled 76% of his words correctly.
My older son is in second grade. He has been using Bob Jones English 3 this year to teach writing and grammar. While we plan to use a different program this coming school year the Bob Jones English program has been a good fit. He has been using Sequential Spelling 1 for spelling instruction this year too. For reading he has been reading several different 4th-5th grade level chapter books. Most of his posts on his blog are assignments. Once he completes his assignment on his blog I review it with him for grammar, spelling, punctuation, and clarity. He rarely goes to his blog to post on his own. Here is a post toward the beginning of the school year. This post was not an assignment and was not reviewed with him.
I had fun playing!
I had fun playing on the computer then.
I had fun playing with Plan City then.
I ate lunch then!
I watched Daddy play on the computer but then after that there was.
A thunder storm!!!!!!
That was my day.
I wish you have good whether for playing.
Here is a non-assignment post from the end of the school year:
Wii Sports Resort(cycling)
On wii Sports Resort Cycling Road Race you want to win the race.
To sprint pedal the wii remote and Nunchuk for full set of controls look at my Wii Sports Resort post, go to the link to go to there website they have the full set of controls.
Don’t run out of breath or your mii will turn blue and you’ll have to wait intell the mii turns back to regular color.
In multiplayer work together to win the race!!!!!!!!!
And in VS race against each other!!!!!!!
I see a big difference between the two posts. At the beginning of the school year his sentences were short and his use of punctuation at the end of the sentence showed he was still learning where to place punctuation and what constitutes a complete thought. His sentences were also simple in their construction. In the later sample he shows a better understanding of the complete thought required for a sentence. His sentences are much longer and contain more complex grammatical forms. Spelling is not significantly different between the two samples.
At least for my kids this school year it shows that both whole language instruction and direct writing instruction can improve writing skills. Most experts I have read tend to love one approach and hate the other. However, I find that each can have a role. As parents we need to make the best choice based on our child’s personality, learning style, level, and age. As as always we should keep eyes open and be ready to change if something is not working.
Next school year the plan for my younger son is to continue with phonics and reading instruction, introduce grammar through the use of Mad Libs, and begin to review some blog posts for spelling and punctuation. My older son will be starting with the first level of Michael Clay Thompson’s language arts program which covers vocabulary, grammar, poetry, and writing. He will continue to use Sequential Spelling and move on to book 2 when he is finished with book 1. But the bulk of our language arts time will be spent in reading and listening to literature. While direct instruction on language arts is beneficial I believe the most effective way to learn new vocabulary, understand sentence construction, spelling, and so forth is to read great books.