By Betty Trummel
Throughout my 35 years of classroom teaching I watched young writers struggle year to year. “What should I write about?” That was a common question. Through carefully planned lessons and instruction I helped them grow in confidence and they realized that they were indeed writers. Some grew slowly, some in leaps and bounds. Main ingredients…lots of opportunities to practice their writing skills, exposure to types of and purposes of writing, a classroom that surrounded them in books and other types of text, and lots of feedback and discussion.
Writing is much more difficult here in Zambia, where lessons are taught in both English and the local native language of Nyanja. I am working with bilingual students who often need things explained in both languages. The students here in Zambia do a lot of copying from the board, and are not often asked to write on their own. This means that independent writing opportunities do not come around often.
Writing = super hard work! I’m very proud of the Level 2 students who I’ve worked with the past two weeks. I’ve been asking them to do something completely different…to tell their stories…to write independently…to push themselves a lot!
Today the two classes who attended Monday’s trip to the elephant nursery/rehab center finished their nonfiction elephant books. We had had several discussions reviewing our field trip and processing all we saw and learned before we even started the writing process.
All four Level 2 classes are finishing up their personal narratives about their community. Although the myriad of photos they took were on display…scattered on their tables to give them some inspiration and ideas, it was still SO hard to get started. With heaps of encouragement and constant support from me (and some of the Shine teachers) as I was circulating around the classroom, they had a lot of success to celebrate.
I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to work on writing skills with the students at Shine. Their stories need to be shared and who better to tell them than those who are living the experiences.