by S. Romero
The last piece of the puzzle in the Six Traits of writing…Conventions! Spelling, grammar and usage, punctuation and use of capital letters are all part of the mechanical correctness when it comes to conventions. This particular trait is one that students will continue to work on throughout their academic years since words will become more advanced and grammar usage more extensive. However, it is important to not overlook even the minor of mistakes made in your student’s writing when it comes to conventions.
It is vital that you set a time aside to take a closer look at the mistakes your students make in spelling, grammar and punctuation to make sure they understand why they are mistakes. I’ve seen too often that students that are not given the opportunity to correct the errors in their writing tend to create a habit of making those same mistakes all the way through their secondary school years. I’ve had countless conversations with colleagues that teach high school English and have complained about students with poor grammar and spelling skills.
It is imperative that we model these skills and our students practice them every day. I know there is very little time to spare for one more mini-lesson when you already have so much to teach. I know what you’re thinking…when will I have the opportunity to teach a mini-lesson for each of these skills every day? Well, I might have the answer to that! Not a fancy one just a simple idea that has worked for my hectic schedule and gets the job done! I model all of these skills everyday through a shared writing mini-lesson called Message of the Day! Tada! I told you it wasn’t fancy. It only takes less than 10 minutes and it works!
On chart paper, I have a small paragraph written out with errors that need to be corrected. I base the errors on the skill that we are working on that week plus past skills that we need to continue to practice. For example, if the skill that week is to work on proper nouns, spellings with la “h muda/silent h” and a past skill such as punctuation, I include all of those skills in the Message of the Day. See below.
NOTE: The skill here for spelling is to make sure to include la “h muda” en las palabras que empiezan con la “h.” I see these types of spelling mistakes all the time. There really isn’t another way to teach students this particular skill but through practice, practice, practice! The other skill here is to recognize and capitalize the proper nouns. The past skill that we will continuing working on is capitalization of the beginning of a sentence and punctuation.
My students and I choral read the paragraph aloud. We then review each line in the paragraph to see which errors need to be corrected. Before we correct, we discuss why we are correcting those errors so that they will have an understanding of that particular skill. I pick a couple of students every day to come up and correct. They love it! Plus, it gives everyone the opportunity demonstrate their knowledge of that skill and gives me the opportunity to see which student still might be struggling with a particular skill. By doing so, I noticed my students making less and less of the same mistakes in their writing which makes me one happy teacher!
How do your students learn specific Spanish grammar skills? Do you have any ideas you’d like to share?