Marking first grade compositions is not for the faint of heart or the phonics illiterate. It’s time consuming and deciphering their spelling can almost feel like reading another language. But, ask any of my co-teachers who blandly smile at my latest favourite or titter quietly at a silly anecdote, and you would know that I really enjoy it.
First of all, seeing them put their thoughts into words on paper as they carefully sound out each word is the culmination of all I have been teaching them. They spell some words correctly, because they have now read them a lot. Other words they spell phonetically (think “klen” for “clean”) based on all those special sounds, rules etc. that they have learned in phonics and spelling class. When they write their own stories, it’s like seeing a job well done.
Second, it gives me a brutally honest picture into their worlds. Today, we wrote about ears. One little guy bashfully asked if he could write that he likes listening to his dog chomp on his dog food. I didn’t know before that he had a dog. Another girl wrote, “I like listening to [sister A] and [sister B] cry.” Ouch! (In her defense, she also wrote, “I can hear my Mothers pretty voice.”)
Another reason I enjoy compositions is because it gives those students who struggle with all the particulars of academics a chance to shine creatively. I have two little people who nearly always have homework (because their work looks boring and big). They quickly had a few creative sentences on paper, while my perfectionist still did not know what to write! Marking these pieces reminds me of each student’s potential.
There are some teachers who feel that first grade compositions should not be spell checked. They say the point is just to get your students expressing themselves on paper. I check them anyway. I tell my students to not worry to much about spelling as they write, but then we fix it. Why? Because they want it to be right. They may sigh as they fix their mistakes and recopy their stories, but I know by the satisfied grins on their faces when they hold their final drafts, that they appreciate it. They know they are holding a masterpiece.