A fundamental confusion exists around how to teach writing. I’ve spent two decades looking for just the right metaphor to explain how a parent facilitates writing growth. Then the other day, on the phone, I stumbled upon a perfect metaphor.
Let’s look at learning to use a sewing machine.
A sewing machine makes it possible to create all kinds of sewing products—anything from hemming a pair of pants, to constructing a crazy quilt, to producing an evening gown. The machine doesn’t do it for you. You have to know how to use the machine, and you have to develop skills: how to sew straight seams or how to drop in a sleeve or how to gather a drape. You need to learn how to create casings, and how to use the zig zag, and what the tension dial does.
When learning the skills needed for sewing, students start with scrap fabric. They don’t pick a dress pattern and then sit down to the machine. Usually they have to learn how to thread the needle and bobbin, they have to sew lots of straight lines and learn how to turn corners and how to backstitch the end of a seam so that it doesn’t unravel.
No one can learn all she needs to know in one sitting or even one year of sewing. There are levels of skill that are gained over time, as comfort with the machinery, and dexterity, and familiarity with the properties of sewing are internalized and mastered.
But it is possible at each stage of development to introduce a little project. At first, these might be things like bean bags (squares) or a string dress (no pattern, but the dress uses casings). As the student gets comfortable, making an a-line dress for a doll from a pattern becomes possible and a thrill! Producing a doll quilt is the first step toward making one for a bed.
Eventually, the seamstress learns tricks to make the process easier and faster. The student of sewing can size up a pattern to know if it’s too difficult or too easy, and can make changes to make the pattern work.
Sewing is not about the dress patterns or quilts. Sewing is a set of skills that can be applied to patterns.
Let’s drive home the analogy to writing.
In Brave Writer, The Writer’s Jungle is the sewing machine. In that manual are all kinds of functions the student learns about the writing process. These are discovered using scrap language—whatever is in the mind and mouth of the child at the time. The writing is interest-driven and exploratory. The child is gaining facility with the practice of accessing language, ideas, insights, and information from within and getting those words to the page in a variety of ways (all different styles of “language stitching”). Each week, the parent reads a chapter of the manual and then tries the practice with the child. This is how you would teach sewing – try one stitch at a time, try button-holing on scrap fabric, try dropping in a sleeve with a doll dress.
The Wand, The Arrow or The Boomerang (our language arts products that teach the mechanics of writing) would be similar to needle and thread. You learn how to use the mechanics of writing in these products. Students learn to handwrite, punctuate, spell, and manage the mechanical demands of writing. In sewing, the student has to learn to use the machine——how to thread the bobbin, how much pressure to put on the pedal, how to backstitch, how to zig zag, how to set up the button holer, and how to adjust the tensioner. These skills enable sewing.
Similarly, the functional skills needed to run the machinery of writing are spelling, grammar, punctuation, handwriting and/or typing.
The writing assignments (like we offer in Jot it Down! and Partnership Writing, or the ones found in our online classes) are the dress patterns of writing. Now that your student understands how the machine works and can use it with evolving skill, now that the student can manage the demands of the machine, it’s time to make a dress or placemat or crazy quilt!
In writing, once the student knows how to find language within, knows how to get that language to the page, and how to handwrite, expand, revise, and edit it, he or she is ready to “make something” —to write a report or letter, to write a poem or a dialog, to write a story or ad copy, to write an essay.
The point is—don’t hand your brand-new-to-writing student the equivalent of an evening gown dress pattern and expect it to turn out right on the first try, just because there are “clear instructions.” Writing is a set of skills practiced independently of assignments, leading up to developmentally appropriate writing projects that reinforce and expand evolving skills.
3 components of a complete writing/language arts program:
1. Mastery of the original writing process (The Writer’s Jungle)
2. Rehearsing the mechanics of writing (Wand, Arrow, Boomerang)
3. Writing projects to put mechanics and original writing together (Online classes, Help for High School, Jot it Down! and Partnership Writing)
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The Impact of the Invention of the Sewing Machine on America Essay
1288 WordsFeb 28th, 20126 Pages
Tracie Jackson Chamberlain College of Nursing HUMN303 Introduction to Humanities Professor Catherine Coan
June 12, 2011
The Impact of the Invention of the Sewing Machine on America
The large number of practical and useful inventions brought forward during the time leading up to and including the period known as the Industrial Revolution had a significant impact on both American society and the world. The transition that took place resulted in reliance on mechanical sources of power/energy rather than the traditional human or animal sources to produce the products needed (Hackett, 1992). One of…show more content…
It was primarily designed to sew leather and canvass for boots and used a single needle to produce a simple chain stitch (Museum of American Heritage, 2010).
In 1830, Barthelemy Thimmonier, a French tailor, patented the first functional sewing machine that used a hooked embroidery-type needle to produce a chain stitch. However, in 1841, after successfully using his machines to mass produce army clothing, his production facility was destroyed and he was almost killed by other tailors in the town who were angry and threatened by the machine’s efficiency and utility. In America during the early 1830’s, a New York inventor, Walter Hunt, produced the first sewing machine that created a lockstitch. As a result, thinking changed and duplication of the human hand stitch was no longer the standard that inventors were measured by. Hunt at that time did not see the promise of his invention and did not file for a patent to protect it. He sold his interest for a small fee. (Museum of American Heritage, 2010).
In 1846, Elias Howe filed a patent for a sewing machine that used two needles and generated thread from two different sources, resulting in a lock-stitched seam. However, Howe spent several years trying to defend his patent in America and market his machine abroad. In 1856, Howe successfully sued several of the patent infringers and received substantial income from the settlement, which paid him a fixed