“The Kitten Who Thought It Was a Duck.”

2013-08-13 13.20.54

“Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.” – Gene Fowler.

Alex is having a hard time with the jump from writing a few sentences to writing paragraphs. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say that Alex is giving me a hard time about the jump to writing paragraphs. She’s obviously capable of writing well, but she complains bitterly about the length and otherwise fights me every step of the away.

This little story was last week’s assignment. The directions gave her the basic premise and three supporting ideas to write about – e.g., “tell what happened when the ducklings went into the water.” She was supposed to flesh out that framework into an interesting story. I think she did a charming job of it, but whoa, was it a struggle.

The Kitten Who Thought It Was A Duck

Once there was a kitten who thought it was a duck, because it was raised by a flock of ducks. When the ducklings ate corn, the kitten tried to, but choked. The kitten learned how to swim, so he followed the ducklings into the water. The kitten could not swim far, so he had to ride on the mother duck’s back, but he fell off. PLOOSH! Some kids saw it and thought it was the saddest-looking kitten they had ever seen.

When the kitten chased a mouse, the other ducklings thought they were supposed to. They tripped over their own feet.

The End

Her first draft was a grudging, bare-bones framework and full of misspellings. I insisted, despite her howls, that she write a final draft. We talked about how a final draft can either be a boring exercise in copying or it can be an opportunity to make your story even better. She spent forever on the final draft on Friday and only managed to write a few sentences. She insisted that Writing Strands is just too hard and too long for her. But today, when I sat her down to finish, she added a bunch of elaboration and humor to the second half and seemed genuinely pleased with the result. Now she wants to send it to a publisher.

I think this is a reasonable amount of writing to expect from a third grader. I certainly think that kids in public school are writing this much or more. Am I off base?

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5 Responses to “The Kitten Who Thought It Was a Duck.”

  1. Kyndra says:

    No, having taught writing for years I would consider that entirely appropriate for a third grader.

    I think what you may be running into is the difficulty many bright children have with going through multiple steps to get a better finished product. Some children will hardly admit that they have finished something, they can always improve it. Others (at least two of mine are in this category) figure that having put something down that pretty much fulfills the exercise is as good as doing a really superior job! They also think that being asked to “do it again” means that the first one was no good!
    Fun times. …K

  2. Ian Osmond says:

    I wonder if pointing her to the LiveJournals of various author friends could help set expectations. Papersky (Jo Walton) posts word counts every day — it might help across the idea that “writing is a process; it doesn’t just happen”.

  3. Jo Walton says:

    I wish I posted word counts every day, but it’s only when I write some.

    I sympathise with Alex! I hate revising stuff and handwriting is a chore I’m not very good at, and I still have the clever kid problem Kyndra discusses above and I’m 48.

    What I’d suggest is that you stop writing things for her and give her the choice of either writing them or typing them. Typing is so much easier and more useful and easier to revise for perfectionists. All she needs in life from handwriting is a signature. (Mmm, and maybe “Best wishes” or “Happy Reading” if she’s going to be a writer.)

  4. jw says:

    I’m going to echo what Jo said about typing. While there is some value to handwriting practice in terms of fine motor control, editing is sooooooo much easier on a computer than with handwriting. For a start, you don’t have to rewrite the whole thing to make it perfect, which can be a daunting task.

    Also, I loved PLOOSH! That made me laugh.

  5. This looks third grade to me, but third grade before the Common Core. Now my son’s doing months of persuasive writing. Creative writing seems to be a think of the past. Or maybe it’s going to get a lonely month in spring after testing.

    My son’s teacher would nick the second paragraph as not being long enough.

    All of their writing is coming from CIA Reading. I think it’s a Washington State thing. Here’s what I was able to find out: http://teachingmybabytoread.com/2013/10/13/how-parents-can-use-the-c-i-a-approach-to-reading-at-home/

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