I love my job but there have been many frustrating moments where I felt that I did not have what it takes to be successful. I mean we are educating the countries future citizens, which is a huge burden to bear. To be honest sometimes the future looks pretty bleak from where I am sitting.
I often need to remind myself that I work with a special population and they do not represent the majority of high school students about to enter the workforce. That does not preclude me from desperately trying to teach them important skills before they leave the hallowed halls of compulsory education for good. One of those skills is writing.
Obviously as a writer I am passionate about ones ability to express themself in this way. I found early on in my career that just because you are good at something doesn’t mean you can teach it. At least not without some serious forethought and planning. So as I struggled with the abysmal scribblings of my students work I came to a crossroads of admitting this to myself and then working to find a solution. With the help of mentor teachers and a dogged determination I stumbled upon the Jane Schaffer paragraph.
It is my holy grail and what I use every time I teach writing now. Some teachers would complain that it is too formulaic and it does not give students the ability to find out their own writing flow. My students need formulas and graphic organizers to learn. This method works for the most part and as they use it they gain confidence in their writing and write better.
The Jane Schaffer is a formula for a paragraph that starts with a topic sentence (TS), then a concrete detail(CD) and is followed by two commentary sentences (CM) and a concluding sentence(CS). The reason why this format works for my students is because common core wants our students to use textual evidence to back up their claims, they help figuring out how to do this with success. The concrete detail is the textual evidence they use and they they talk about why it’s important.
Using this formula along with the constructing meaning tools our districts uses gives me the framework to help my students become more effective writers.
I teach them this and they get better. It works and that’s what matters to me. If you haven’t heard of the Jane Schaffer paragraph, check it out online. It has been a lifesaver for my students.