One of my favorite things about the 826 tutoring model is their emphasis on one-on-one time. This works really well during after-school tutoring but it is a little harder to achieve during in-school sessions. But today we got a little closer to that goal with a record 10 volunteers in our Golder College Prep classroom. It was incredibly crowded but definitely beneficial.
Something we've talked with the students about this semester is how to acutally start writing. We've shared our own tips on how to beat writer's block and it seems like the students are actually paying attention.
At the beginning of class today, Zach had the students take out a piece of paper and write an anecdote-something we've really been pushing with their stories. They didn't have time to stress about the assignment or plan anything out, they just had to write. And from what I read, they did a really great job at just getting ideas on paper based on the interviews and research they had done for homework.
When I was in college, I always procrastinated writing papers by creating outlines... or saying I was going to create an outline and then spending five hours Facebook-stalking people from my classes. Same thing.
But it turns out making those outlines actually helped when I finially got around to writing (what a surprise!).
Which is exactly what I told students this morning at Golder College Prep when they grumbled about filling out an Outline-O-Matic worksheet.
An Outline-O-Matic is a story mapping worksheet to help students create an outline later. For about the fifth worksheet in a row, students state the theme of their story, describe the anecdote their using the start the story and say who their audience is. Which is an easy way to make an 11th grader start an assignment-let them write down what they already know. Give them a little confidence.
Students then filled out three bubbles with the themes readers would follow through their story. Themes can be hard to pin down, but the two girls I worked with today helped each other out a lot and after a few minutes we had flipped over our worksheets to start on side two. On side two, those three bubbles were given four attachements each so students could expand on their themes with a little more detail.
Not to brag, but by the end of class, their story bubbles had drawn-in branches for all the details they had planned out.
What went so well this morning in my group, and other volunteers echoed this, was the collaboration between students. It seems like the class is really starting to get invested not only in their own stories, but in their classmate's stories as well. Which is just really awesome.
And almost two months into this project I have to confess I'm pretty invested in these stories, too. As in last night I had a dream about that candy store man who won't take crumpled dollar bills.
We're meeting back at Golder on Monday next week, and that almost doesn't seem soon enough. I think I've become more obsessed and impatient with seeing these stories progress week-to-week than I do with mid-season episodes of Breaking Bad.
Alaina is the digital content editor at Chicago Parent. She lives in Chicago.
See more of Alaina's stories here.