Thursday, December 2, 2010


As one of their choices of writing pieces in our workshop, some students are working on their science fair project introductions. As usual, my role is to confer with them and make editorial suggestions. The style required for this type of writing is new to them, and some of them are finding it a challenge to compose in third person, passive voice, without contractions.

Tougher still for some is synthesizing the information that they have gathered in their research. For one thing, as eleven-year-olds, they don't have the level of general knowledge they need for an accurate internal fact checker, and so in the past few days I have read some outrageous scientific claims, for example that chewing gum is made of rubber and petroleum and pills are made from the crushed leaves and bark of trees.

I understand the kids will make mistakes like this on their first attempts at such a complex task, but here's what I don't get: when I tell them that they are wrong, they are incredulous and even belligerent. "How do you know?" one student asked me indignantly. "You're an English teacher."

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