Playful writing 8: I’m thinking about… (revisited)

Instead of moving on to a new topic this week, I had the feeling that I should revisit this one. It turned out to be a good decision because my middle school students had a lot on their minds. Normally they just write about food and sleep. Today, they wrote about hopes, dreams, expectations, worries, fears, and the future.

And since I’m thinking about them right now, I thought I’d write it down too.

I’m thinking about my students. I have a class of middle school third graders. They have been my students for two years. They are graduating this winter and going to high school. There are about 20 students in total. They always seem to be hungry (for fried chicken, specifically) and the boys love playing games. One of the boys is a pianist who hopes to play music for the rest of his life. You’d never know just by looking at him, but he has a passionate soul. Another one loves video and computer games and pays attention to how popular they are because he loves playing and interacting with people from around the world. He says he uses English for this purpose. One of the boys wants to make the most of his last vacation before high school and before he leaves the city for his new private school. One of the girls is also looking forward to boarding school with fear and excitement. She wants to make a lot of friends. They share their joys and sorrows, fears and frustrations every week with me.

I’m thinking about Sarah, my oldest student. She is finishing second grade of high school and doesn’t have a lot of time to study with me, but her mother insists she make time. I have never really known why – there’s not a lot that I can teach her with the time she has, but I suspect her mother wants to make sure high school doesn’t cause her to hate English and find it useless. I don’t think that could ever happen. She dreams of traveling and meeting people – thinks of the excitements and frustrations in her future, and shares all this. She is bad at logic puzzles, good at solving mysteries and asking questions, and excellent at talking about movies and music. She is highly empathic and says she needs to study harder. But she seems to sleep enough. I am thinking that she would like to watch the Dear Korea video that came out recently. I wonder how I can turn that into a lesson. I would like her to do more story-telling as well. She will need speaking skills for TOEIC and TOEFL when she travels. I hope she can go to college abroad. I will write her a recommendation. Maybe that’s why her mother is keeping the lesson.

I am thinking about Jim. He’s 10 and he’s tiny. On Tuesday he came to class with a sore arm. He couldn’t take his bag all the way off. He just let it drop to the floor. It fell with a thud. It was the thud that drew my attention. I came over to help him. I pulled out his books and notebook and pencil case, put his bag on his chair for him. It must have weighed 15 kilos. There were all his hagwon books inside. He is one of those little kids who attends hagwons for more hours than he attends school. He never does his homework for my class and he used to cut class so that he could play in the park. Now he comes (unprepared) and enjoys competition, games, speaking, but not writing or reading (unless it’s part of a game). At the end of the class, I helped him put his books back in his bag and put the bag back on his shoulders. Inside my heart was breaking for him.


I have noticed that my students’ confidence in writing is improving. When I assign them other types of writing work, they don’t complain or worry about how to do it – they just get down to it. Maybe it’s because they know that the words will come. Or maybe it’s because they fear mistakes less. I have also noticed that the higher the level of  the students, the less they write during free-writing. At first I thought they were tired, lazy, or just didn’t have as many ideas, but I’m beginning to notice that their writing quality is better and perhaps they are spending more time focusing on good writing. The project is nearly at an end – just a couple more weeks. I am not sure I will finish all ten of Chuck Sandy’s playful writing topics with them, but I will probably do them myself because sometimes, I just need a writing break.

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