November 11, 2010

Fluent Like Water by Sharmane Miller

This post by Sharmane Miller of Nassau Bahamas was offered as part of my online class Teaching and Assessing Writing with the Six Traits ~ Dennis

Standing at the shoreline watching the gentle waves push the cool water between the cracks of my toes and hearing the synchronized breathing of each ripple, provides a powerful image of fluency for me.  Living on a very small island, I tend to focus a lot on the water and this week I draw from it to conceptually teach sentence fluency.  Just as it experiences low and high tide, students experience sentences with varying lengths and meter.  At times the water is a bit cold and harsh and we need to move into it slowly or throw caution to the wind and dive in quickly.  Either way, some movement must take place.  I can really milk this metaphor for more links to fluency but I’ll quit while I’m ahead :-)

As I read through the similes and metaphors suggested in the introduction of this module, a past writing assignment of my former sixth graders came to mind.  After listening to Georgia Heard talk about finding poetry in unusual places, they wrote a single sentence response, which exemplify the power of sentence fluency. 

Dwayne wrote, “I find poetry in a scary book that sends chills down my spine with the turning of each page.” 

Justin said, “I find poetry while I’m in the yard playing in the dirt,” while Gillian explained, “I find poetry through my father’s car window as I gaze lazily at the passing landscape.” 

When each of them in turn read their sentences, what resulted was a wonderful rendition of rhythm, cadence, power and movement.  Getting students to “pitch in” by adding a sentence or two for a class writing project worked well for teaching fluency, but I’m sure some adjustments would have to be made for the younger writers.

Christopher Meeks suggested that poetry lets you live in a world with new spectacles and since sentence fluency is influenced greatly by poetry, I feel that students must get accustomed to this new lens before introducing other features with it.  By this I mean, it wouldn’t hurt to introduce students to the trait of sentence fluency separately (choosing the frame), then in subsequent lessons put on the high definition lenses (voice) and throw in some tint (word choice) to reinforce the connection between the traits for a totally cool spectacle (writing with style). 

When I do take this approach, one of my favorite activities is the sentence pyramid, but I must agree with the readings that nothing beats the impact of plain old reading aloud.

 Sharmane (Nassau)

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