Tag Archives: second grade

The Second Grade Essay

I started this blog post with the last writing prompt and never finished it. I blame the writing prompts. Ha. Anyway, we are on our last writing prompt now and I thought I’d throw it up on the blog…

So, my second-grader has been assigned the first of many, many writing assignments he will complete in the course of his K-12 education. They are called simply the “writing prompt” and as of this week, we are on the third one. The assignment, which takes students through the writing process, is sent home on Wednesday and due the following week.

I love these assignments…in theory. The high school teacher in me is impressed and grateful. I mean, a mini-version of the writing process at eight-years-old? Awesome. Thank you, second grade teachers! By the time the students get to ninth grade, they won’t go cross-eyed when I suggest that maybe—just maybe—their first draft shouldn’t be their final draft. And the writer in me is loving it. #blessed.

No, not #blessed. The whole ‘getting to share my love of the written word’ with Jackson, my adorable, dyslexic, ADHD son? Not so much. This past week, when we sat down to work, I pointed out that I tutor kids in writing (and I’m good at it).

Me: I’m a writing teacher. You’re lucky because your mom is a writing teacher.

Jackson: You’re a high school teacher. Not second-grade. And you’re not my writing teacher. You’re just my helper.

Well, I guess it’s good that our relationship is clearly defined. That way, Jackson won’t have to pay me my rate per hour. Just a helper. This isn’t a tutoring sesh, mom. Really? Cause it sure feels like work to me, kiddo.

Jackson doesn’t need my help (according to Jackson). He will just model his stories off his favorite author Dav Pilkey and the Captain Underpants series. And this technique might be okay if Jackson were writing a graphic novel and not prose.

An example. For the first writing prompt, Jackson chose to write about spring break. Below is an exact line from his draft…

Then back in the hot tub…whaaaaaa????? Darcy What are you…whaaaaaa????

Apparently, Jackson and Darcy were playing in the hot tub at my mom’s house and Darcy jumped in and splashed him.

Me: Jackson, who is saying this?

Jackson: Me, I’m talking to the reader. And then Darcy is interrupting me.

Me: But you need punctuation here.

The ‘special snowflake parent’ in me wants to commend Jackson for breaking the fourth wall. But the sensible writer in me knows that we need some clarification if the reader is going to have ANY IDEA what the heck is going on.

For the second prompt, I wised up and got C.K. involved.  Jackson wrote about plants. Well, the question was to explain what plants need to survive and showcase his knowledge about the life cycle. Jackson decided to write about buying me a lemon verbena for my birthday because I love the smell.

(Aside: Jackson is the best. I’m love my lemon verbena because now he will stop stealing the leaves from an enormous plant on the school farm. The leaves are sweaty and crumpled and he watches me like a hawk until I put them in my tea.)

So, after Jackson spends the entire first paragraph describing the ride to Calloways with C.K. (no mention of plant knowledge but plenty about my birthday, the gift, the party, etc), he knocks the transition out of the park with “Okay, so you probably know what this paragraph is about.”

The above sentence is what happens when I loosen the reins and let my husband do homework with Jackson. I thought I was being smart. I was saving myself the stress of doing the writing homework with Jackson for the evening and C.K. would get to see Jackson’s brilliant but bouncy mind in action. C.K. would appreciate my efforts. Jackson would spend quality time with his father. I have awesome ideas, right?

No! That is hardly what happened. The one (ONE!) paragraph they worked on together was a hot mess. The rest of the paragraph talked about the various parts of a plant. Jackson wrote something like this…

Okay, so you probably know what this paragraph is about.

Oh sooooo cute…. leaves + stem + roots + flowers

No flowers = still perfect

When I called this paragraph to the attention of my hubs and asked, “H ey, did you read this?” I asked him with NO ATTITUDE WHATSOEVER because I NEVER HAVE AN ATTITUDE and I’m the PERFECT SPOUSE.

C.K., who has not one but two advanced degrees in English, looked at me incredulously as if to say, “It’s a rough draft.” Yeah, rough. Like Jackson wrote this on a dang cocktail napkin.

The third prompt is about Earth Day. Dare I say, things are going smoother. Or the plying him with leftover Easter candy after each sentence is making it bearable.  Or we’ve gotten used to the torturous 45-minutes a day we spend “writing” together. See, by the afternoon, Jackson’s meds have worn off. So, he spends a lot of time fidgeting. And talking. And walking around the chair twenty times. Today, Jackson took three whole minutes writing the sentence “Earth day is coming.” I know it was three minutes because I used the hyperlapse app (video compression) to record it.

While Jackson wanted to write about Earth Day, he doesn’t like thinking about what would happen if we didn’t take care of the earth.

Me: Okay so, you’ve you got ‘If we didn’t take care of the earth,…’ then what? What do you want to say?

Jackson: If we didn’t take care of the earth, we would die.

Me: Okay, write that.

Jackson [starts to write]: I can’t write that. I can’t start out so violent. I can’t go dark so quickly.

Me [sighs]: Well, it’s true. If we didn’t care for the earth, we wouldn’t be able to live here anymore. Maybe say that animals could go extinct instead.

Jackson: That’s even worse. I don’t want to think about animals dying.

We decided on “If we didn’t take care of the Earth, we couldn’t live here anymore.” This produced a lengthy tangent on how cool it would be to live on the moon or Mars. And how the guy who made the electric car Daddy wants is going to set up a colony in outer space.

Throughout this paragraph, since Jackson had to describe what would happen if the earth continued to be destroyed, we used the word “would” a lot. That is, until Jackson announced, “Calm down with the ‘woulds’ already. I’m not writing it anymore.”

I debated attempting to explain future conditional verb tense. Instead I resorted to this: “You have two more sentences. Just write it two more times and then we’re done. And I’ll give more M&Ms.”

This was acceptable.

[UPDATE: We just finished the rough draft of his last writing prompt. It was a letter to next year’s second grades explaining the pros and cons of writing prompts. Jackson’s conclusion read like this: “You shouldn’t have to do writing prompts because they take forever. But good luck.” #nailedit ]

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Second Grade

Jackson holds a chalkboard apple on his first day of second grade.

On Monday, Jackson started second grade. Actually, since he is the first-born, we all started second grade together. I fussed over the chalkboard apple and my subpar font. And his outfit. And his hair. And what do you put in the school bag? At least I had his lunch is down pat. Uncrustables & Capri Suns since day one of kinder. Lunch, consider yourself, phoned in. Judge all you want, readers.

Darcy spent the morning pissed that it wasn’t her first day of school. She is generally resentful of being the youngest and so she is always finding ways to commit family treason on special mornings like this one. Sidenote: Yesterday Darcy helped me start Jackson’s laundry. After diligently putting all his clothes in the machine, as instructed, she poured bleach on them and started it. While I applaud her self-direction here, she could have stopped after she completed her task and chosen NOT to be treasonous whilst my back was turned.

Anyway, we took Jackson in the classroom, did the requisite pictures, seat finding, etc. He seemed happy but a little tentative. We then made our the PTA coffee, said hellos, caught up with some friends, and fed Darcy a kolache. NB: A kolache is basically a large pig-in-a-blanket. Texans heart kolaches big time.

Darcy parked herself at the food table, grabbed a kolache (like a good native-born Texan), popped the breakfast sausage out of the pastry, took a bite, then popped it back in.

I was clearly the wrong person to get C.K. and I coffee since doing so took about twenty minutes. So much chit-chat. It’s a life skill. I have mad chit-chat skillz.  And I forgot my car keys on Jackson’s desk so I had to travel back for those. His teacher met me halfway, keys jingling in the air, a knowing look on her face that spoke, “You are the mom who will ask what I want from Starbucks and then completely forget or get my order wrong.” At least now she knows I am an overly apologetic hot mess. Better than me overachieving in these first weeks of school only to find out that it’s all downhill from Halloween.

Monday night I got to thinking about my time in the second grade. I sent a note to my future second grade teacher when I was still in first grade. I wonder if it was before or after I got in trouble for drawing privates in a marble notebook during recess. There were two other depraved kids there but I can’t remember their names or faces. So maybe I imagined them. And it was just depraved little me, sitting on the playground, doing some risque sketches.

Whether Ms. Triola knew of my first grade transgressions, I can’t say. But clearly what I wrote in that note I hand delivered to her classroom was enough. I wrote a letter. And I got what I wanted. The note told Ms. Triola that she was the prettiest teacher in the school. And that I loved her high heels. (She legit had pumps in every color.)

The high heels remained a point of fascination even after I’d gained access to the best second grade class Dutch Broadway had to offer. I remember walking up the stairs behind her and Ms. Triola wouldn’t put her whole foot on the step in front of her. So the sole of her impractically-high-for-a-teacher-heel would be on the step but the four inch heel would balance off the edge. It was a weirdly marvelous thing–and something I copied when I became a teacher years later. I soon learned that high heels were ridiculous to wear when you stood for most of your  work day.

This is THE Porsche!

And I didn’t care. Just like Ms. Triola taught me.

She drove a Porsche. And even though it was an ugly 1980s Porsche, I could tell this vehicle was better than the Pontiacs and Datsuns that populated the rest of the faculty lot. A vehicle for someone who wore Porsche-like footwear.

I even heard my mother tell our across the street neighbor Rhonda that Ms. Triola’s “sugar daddy” bought it for her. I remember thinking that maybe my father would buy me a red sports car one day. And I would punch the gas over each speed bump in the school lot and completely ignore the school zone speed limits, just like Ms. Triola did.

At least I think she did. The car was red and therefore appeared capable of mildly illegal behavior.

Ms. Triola got married later that year–presumably to said Sugar Daddy–but I don’t remember her married name. It’s a law in elementary school that all teacher’s names are whatever they are when you first meet them. I can’t learn a whole new surname because of your life milestone. I’m seven.

 

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