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How to Make a Writer

July 6, 2011

Teacher Musings:
This is one of a few blogs that I will publish this summer as a sort of flashback.  This is a post that I drafted earlier in the school year but didn’t post because I wanted to revise and re-think it.  Summer is when I have the time for this kind of reflection, so here it is!  Enjoy!

Here are some lines from a recent essay (second of three drafts) my 10th grade students wrote.  The essay assignment was to answer the question: “Could something like the Holocaust happen in the U.S. today?  Why or why not?”  Let’s read them and see what we notice.

“I believe that it can because there is always a difference that would cause hate and debate and also no because I refuse to believe something as scary and cruel could happen again.”

“One of the eight stages genocide is dehumanization which is something that the U.S. and any other country is not new to where a group of people are treated like animals and not humans that they are.”

“We treat muslims differently in this country and when I say differently I mean horribly bad.”

What did you notice?

Here is what I used to notice first:
Run on sentences.
Confusing sentence structure

Here is what I notice now:
Nuanced thinking
The beginning of understanding how social inequalities relate to past events.

The fact that I notice the ideas more now does not mean I am blind to the grammar problems.  However, I can’t ignore the fact that my students have something important to say, to express, to WRITE, anymore than I can ignore their mechanics mistakes.  This school year I built in more time and more drafts that were focused on students developing their ideas.  I also tried to ask more thought-provoking questions, the ones that might make anyone want to write, or at least express their ideas.  As a result, my students produced more writing, and some even found that the act of writing helped them refine and re-think their ideas.

While I was excited by this development, I definitely dropped the ball on mechanics, as well as giving students time to discuss these questions.  Next year I hope to build in more time and focus on editing after ALL my students have a draft that is ready to edit.  I also am going to work on teaching students how to move ideas from the discussion to the page, which is a vital task in writing, but also something that I myself struggle with.

Yummy Stuff:
As CSA members we get a box of produce every week.  Over the years both the G-man and I have gotten better at knowing what to do with lots of different veggies, both familiar and unfamiliar.  In one of our recent boxes we got a good amount of rhubarb.  Now, I know about all about rhubarb pie and the supposedly perfect match of rhubarb and strawberries.  But neither the G-man nor I really like pie, and strawberries are currently expensive and all from CA.  So, I looked through my blog reader and decided to riff on a rhubarb-lime syrup recipe from Jess of Get Sconed.  It came out as a perfect addition to seltzer water or mixer margarita mixer (just blend it with 3 parts syrup, 1 part tequila and ice).  Now I will know what to do with rhubarb every summer!

Rhubarb-Lime Syrup

About 3 cups chopped rhubarb
3 cups of water
1 cup of sugar
2-3 limes (depending on your preference) washed and quarters

1. Put all the ingredients in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil and stir until the sugar is dissolved, which should only take a few minutes once the water is heated.
2. Turn heat to low, cover and simmer for 25-30 minutes, stirring once or twice.  The rhubarb will separate and you will have a funny looking pink soup.
3. After the 25-30 minutes turn the heat off and let the mix sit for at least 5 minutes (or longer if you are busy)
4. Put a fine mesh strainer over a bowl or large glass measuring cup and strain the mixture.  It will take some pressing and some time to get all the liquid out, but it is worth it!
5. Let the syrup cool, and then refrigerate.  Add this beautiful pink liquid to your cocktails or mock-tails and enjoy summer!

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