“Read the directions first, then ask questions.”


How many times has that statement come out of my mouth?  Some days, I just want rolling markee that I can put up at the front of my room that has an inspirational quote, then that statement.  Students would be inspired, then a bit of reality.  But I digress…..


This week, our blog topic is dealing with environmental issues.  We are writing two paragraphs, the first an issue that the student picks, the second, things the student can personally do to help the environment.  Monday we introduced it, talked about it, asked questions, and the students were shown the general guideline that I’d be looking at via Edmodo.  We’ve been doing our pre-writing and rough draft via Google Docs and students share with me along with other students, parents, relatives, basically anyone with an email address and the desire to read fifth grade work.


Totally off topic, but I love this!  I’ll be the first to admit I’m pretty old school and appreciate hand writing things, however, how much do I hand write out anymore?  If I’m composing at my computer, why would I not try to help my students do the same?  By doing this, we’ve reduced the amount of paper we use AND the amount of work that is “forgotten”.  We can log in, open Google, and “Wow, there’s your work, you didn’t lose it after all, good job!” 🙂


Anyway, like with most classes, I have those who poke along, and those who want to fly through things, this assignment being no different.  However, as I proofread, I’ve had two students who’ve totally written about topic that have nothing to do with what we are doing. Great paragraphs, nicely formed, and I told them as such.  But then I pointed them back to Edmodo, where they will submit their final draft, and ask them to read the guidelines for their writing.  Both students smiled sheepishly and moved back towards their seats, looking for more information about their topic.


There are some days where I just shake my head, and today was one of them.  I don’t think I could have prepared them any more for this topic if I tried, yet, this happens.  It just adds to that sense that we as a culture don’t value the process, we value the product.   I know these writings aren’t going to win any international awards, yet, I want them to know that as writers, as students, directions are important!  If they are off in science, it causes problems! If their measurements are off, the bread they are making may not rise or totally over rise.  There are so many examples of why we should follow directions, yet, they mean nothing to these students unless it happens directly to them.  And this is typical, and I know this and love this about the age group, they let things roll off their backs.  Yet, I also know that unless I hold that line, they’ll continue to simply “do” without thinking about what exactly it is that task is.  And that I cannot deal with.


As I told one of my students as we went through their paragraph and the question was asked, “do I need to redo this?”  I said there were a few parts that could be moved, but more writing would be needed to flesh out the paragraph.  I then asked if they’d reread the guideline in their Edmodo assignment.  When their head went down, my only comment was:


“Sometimes, you just have to read the directions!”