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How a U.S. Army Drill Sergeant Would Teach Writing

Aug 18, 2007
Teaching reading and writing in the classroom is like being a drill sergeant in the U.S. Army. As it pertains to writing, drill sergeants would do repetition, model, and show their soldiers how to make a paragraph They would do so in a manner that would command attention and they would lead by example. No one would dare stop or interrupt them in the process of teaching.

In paragraphing, drill sergeants would model how to do a paragraph, then they would meticulously inspect everyone's writing, and if it wasn't correct, they'd have them do it over and over again. Picture if you will a fully uniformed Army Sergeant pacing the room looking for correctness and noting errors immediately. Wait a minute, I think I hear Sergeant Writer now: "Atten-Hut Students, check that form, check that content, who will read theirs first? Yes, private, what did you write? Ah, very good, you started that paragraph by indenting on your first new thought! Good soldier! Now who's next?"

A U.S. Army drill sergeant would go into the topic sentence, and then the supporting details, he's have his recruits repeat aloud the steps to supporting details for the topic sentence, and everyone would give an example Then everyone would write again, get inspected, and be rewarded with verbal praise and extra medals. The Sergeant would give immediate feedback. So many teachers these days seem to forget about this step. If you grade the papers later, you don't have the student to inform of their errors, and they cannot correct them on the spot. One of my greatest strategies teachers can utilize is just plain doing a "scan-correct" or a quick happy face, etc., letting the child know his progress right there on the spot. I use this technique daily in my classroom, and I can't tell you how many smiles I've seen over the years when the light bulbs come on and the students say something like: "Oh, that's how you do it, how did I mess up on that?, that's where you put the four, oh, I get it, thank you I get it now, oh, that's easy!" and many more explicatives!

Over next few days, the drill sergeant would then go into descriptive, narrative, and expository writing Then he would expect to see examples from every recruit. He would hold each of them accountable, and he would grade them with a bold pen! He would not tolerate late papers and those who were late would be in the Kitchen on KP Duty washing dishes or washing the bathroom floors with a toothbrush. That would soon end tardiness or late papers!

I believe that teachers need to be participative motivators, like the U.S. Army Drill Sergeant, that the job must be done, and that it needs to be quality writing, not sloppy, disordered, or nonsense words. Teachers need to model the structure, command the presence, and be the U.S. Army style coaches to their students. When expectations are high, as they are in the U.S. Army, the student will arise!
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