by Darren J. Butler, MFA
Recently, a principal emailed me with a question. "Do you think daily journal writing is effective?"
The simple answer is "YES!" The more complicated answer is, "If..."
Several years ago, I was in a third grade classroom observing. The administration asked me to come in and evaluate where they were with writing and close reading. I visited a number of classrooms, where I saw a great deal of excellence with the staff. However, one classroom stood out to me...
The teacher asked her third graders to write in their journals. She set a timer of thirty minutes and returned to her desk. No further instruction. I walked around the room and eagerly observed the students as they took out their journals and turned to a clean page. For several minutes, I watched them basically stare at the paper. A few students scribbled some sentences, but the majority of students had the same problem every writer experiences...the blank page and no direction.
Years ago, I had the privilege of working on the Alabama Direct Assessment on Writing. I specialized in working with schools that had scored below the 50th percentile. I travelled around Alabama working with numerous schools. In my first year, I met a young girl we will call “Beth” for anonymity. The school was a small K-8 school in an underserved community. With large Coke bottle glasses and a sweet smile, Beth had an IQ score of 78. In my first year at the school, Beth was in third grade. She never spoke to me, but she sat as close as she could to soak it all in. In fourth grade, Beth moved her chair closer to the board, but once again, she never spoke to me. Thinking she was non-verbal, I approached her special education teacher who simply said, “She’s warming up to you. Give her time.” Sure enough, on the first day of school of Beth’s fifth grade year, she spoke her first words to me. “Mr. Butler, I’m going to pass this...
If you're going to write books, you should read books. If you are going to write plays, you should go to the theatre. If you're going to teach students how to write - you should be writing. In this series, I am going to share some short stories and excerpts from plays I've written. I want to encourage you to write. Whenever possible, let your students see you writing and reading. The more we model these actions, the more passionate our students will become about reading and writing.
Here is a little story called, "Dig Two."
a short story
by Darren Butler
The old Chevy slowed to a stop, the dust billowing in its wake. Bruce relaxed his grip on the steering wheel and surveyed the clearing. With a drawn out breath, he forced himself to make eye contact with the dog perched in the passenger seat. Rascal met his stare and then looked away.
Bruce clambered out of the cab and paused beside the truck. After some deliberation, he...