I’ve been doing a lot of grammar drills and practice with my mainstream (lower-level) sophomores lately. A lot of these kids are at a pretty distinct academic disadvantage because their English skills are very low. One of the larger points of confusion for most of them is the conjugation of verbs in different tenses. Over the past month or so, we’ve done every worksheet that has ever been created, watched every cutesy video lesson, and played every possible game. Still, when I ask them what they are doing right now they say “I am listen!” and “We listened!” (The one solid thing they seem to have learned about verbs in elementary school is that they get -ed endings. Any verb. Any tense. Just add -ed and you’re set!) We only have two weeks left in the semester (and they’ll have a new English teacher next year. tear, tear, tear), so now we are just drilling drilling drilling.
Earlier this week I asked them to come up with a list of ten verbs. Then I asked them to conjugate each verb in present simple. Once they had a little cheat-sheet written out, they were asked to write a story. They were to use each of their ten verbs at least once, in present simple, and to try to use third person singular as often as possible.
This is not groundbreaking super-fun-time stuff. It was just an assignment they could do independently to help practice using these verbs in their writing. But also, I really love reading their stories. They are sophomores (15-16 years) but they can be as sweet and tender-hearted as elementary students in their journals. Of course, they can also be surprisingly candid and alarmingly violent in their private writing as well. At any rate, their creative writing responses are always good times.
Below is the text of the assignment pictured above. This is a perfect example of something a teenage boy might turn in for this kind of assignment in American Samoa–so tender and then so shocking.
Once up on a time that one night I had a dream. I dream about my self from the future. That one day I am a father and I have 6 children and one baby that crys a lot at night. But my children are old enough to run and jump and even know how to kiss. My older drauther know how to drive the car and also she nows how to swim. But at night we cook are food and we eat together. we laugh together. When my family is asleep someone hold me to not go to my wife that is the room waiting for me to come. Then she came out there two men hold me and one is going up to my wife. He wanted to do something bad to my wife and I was hold down by to men and the man shoot my wife and wake up it was just the dream. And I say to my self I will permit my self that I love my girl friends.
Here is another student’s submission:
Right now I sit inside the English class, and I dream about my Girlfriend. We walk on the beech and she hold my hand. I do not permit her to smoke cigarette or drink beer. We play hide and seek together and play with the sand. She alway’s laugh at me, and she told me that I look like a clown. I drive her at home and we saw her mother is cry because Her Father is dead. And her little sister is swimming inside the swimming pool. I jump inside the car and she kiss at my chick.
And, finally, another:
Everyday I run at the mountain and I saw my girl is laughing. My girl kiss on my lips because my uncle Joe permit me to kiss a girl. Everyday I dream in class and I cry everyday in the class. I hold Ms. Rakers hand today in her class and Joe was very jealousy. Every day I jump up in the sky. (Joe is the IEP teacher who co-teaches this class with me; Ms. Rakers is the other English teacher at MHS.)