Becoming Writers

Becoming Writers
Posted on 11/10/2016

Written by 7th graders: Tanycha Gomez Candelario and Tomas Ruiz with assistance from Ms. Jillian Kalen 

“When I began writing essays in ELA, I didn’t know about paragraphs, indentations or how to organize my writing. I didn’t know that evidence was so important to proving my point.” --Tomas Ruiz, 7th grader

“I’ve learned to stick to the topic and always have an analysis. I learned many things that have helped me to become a better writer today.” --Olivia Bohart, 6th grader

“I’ve been writing since I was about five or six. Most of my personal writing is about how I’m feeling or something I’m passionate about. I also write about what’s happening in the world around me. I published a book in kindergarten. I don’t remember what it’s about, but I illustrated it myself and wrote something about Santa Claus and a sad little girl. I still have it. I think my style has gotten a bit more serious. I have started to add more details and describe what I’m thinking. For people who are writing, it’s important to feel passionate because if you’re not passionate, your writing won’t be as good.” --Evelyn Guevara, 8th grader

“I have learned how to write an introduction and how to structure a whole essay. Now I’m working on the conclusion. I didn’t know how to do this before. It’s awesome, because I never did this before.” --Blas DiTella, 8th grader

Through our classes in English Language Arts (ELA) and Artes de Lenguaje de Espanol (ADLE), we have learned a great deal about expressing and organizing our ideas for essays. These skills will help with job applications, high school, college and the work world. We have learned so many strategies for writing. First and most importantly, a writer has to understand what he/she is writing about. A writer needs to understand the prompt or question and the audience before expressing his/her ideas. We learned a specific strategy called, “Circle and Underline” where the student circles the verbs (what you have to do) and underlines the important information in the writing prompt. Next, the writer has to plan what he/she is going to write. When asked how her writing had changed, one 7th grade student, Tanycha Gomez Candelario expressed, “Well, my writing changed as I started to be an adolescent. I focus a lot more on planning what I am going to write. Before I would just think of what I wanted to write about and just write it down. Now, it’s more complex and takes more thinking to complete my organizer.” Tomas Ruiz, a 7th grader added, “Organizers help with putting everything where it should go. Instead of writing and then added something else that is not relevant to what you are writing, an organizer keeps you organized.”

“Writing is a very complicated process and I'm SURE will benefit me greatly later in life, just like math. My writing has become very sophisticated and I have finally learned to use punctuation. I used to just write all my ideas down and then start an essay but Ms. Kalen told me not to...Then they handed me an organizer and left me in a dark room until I finished it and was then given my freedom. Now I recognize the importance of maintaining my voice while organizing,” said 8th grader, Max MacGibbon (as an aside, Max likes to write under the alias, “The Great Maxwell Von Pegasus Alexander MacGibbon”).

Max asked his esteemed colleague Charlie Ciampa, an 8th grade student, to speak about his experience with writing. Charlie replied, “Writing used to make me want to tear it into pieces, but now I know how to write. Writing used to be open ended, but now I know how to structure my writing. Before, writing used to be a very tedious process, but now not so much. My writing has improved drastically since 6th grade.”

Another 8th grader, Julia Reyes, added, “I’ve been writing since age 6. My spelling has gotten a lot better through practice and help from teachers. Most important is the organization of an essay. I think about quotes and how I need to organize my paragraphs. I also know I need to put in specific details and an analysis for my quotations. I also know not to summarize the whole essay in my conclusion, but just use parts of it. Most importantly, everything needs to be about my thesis!”

When reading, we have learned that readers and writers always have to annotate because it helps you to fill out your organizer. Tomas Ruiz added, “This is where I get a lot of key information from and also quotes that support my claims.” Tanycha Candelario agreed stating, “I never used to annotate. Now I fill up my whole book with annotations!” In both ADLE and ELA classes, students have learned that annotations are used to fill in both claims and evidence in their graphic organizers. Students have learned several acronyms for remembering the parts of a complete essay. For instance, an introduction always needs information about what you are going to write about, you need to include the title of the text, and the author’s name and enough background information for the reader. We call that B-T-P for Background, Thesis, and Preview (main points you going to write about in your essay). Ruiz stressed that an introduction with a strong thesis gives the reader an idea what the main idea of the essay is. In 7th grade, students work particularly diligently on previewing their main ideas as part of the introduction. Both students stressed the need for the supporting evidence which should be divided into paragraphs with three parts. Students use either a graphic organizer or remember to include the acronym, T-E-A, which stand for Topic sentence, Evidence (in the form of facts, reasons, examples, details, and supporting quotes) and A or R for analysis or reasoning. Finally, the conclusion has two parts, the summary and the “So What?,” or relevance section.

Students urge others not to forget transition words like, “For example,” “In addition,” and “Finally”. Ideally, one paragraph should flow into the next based on what makes sense and by using transition sentences. After writers have written an essay, students urge writers to reread what they have written for mistakes such as punctuation, spelling, grammar, word choice, indentation, and most importantly to make sure that everything in the essay makes sense and is well organized into paragraphs.

Despite all the work involved in planning and writing essays, and that it may be a “painful process (at times)” according to one 8th grader, in the end, students agree that learning to write essays helps you to become a better writer. 

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