Contributing Author: Ms. Mandy Peña, First Grade Teacher
As a classical school, we get to be unique in many ways. One of those ways is reflected in the way we think through and then apply our “signature pedagogies” starting at the youngest of ages and carrying them into graduation. A pedagogy is simply the method and practice of teaching. Therefore, in creating specific pedagogies to align with our mission, we’ve settled on a few foundational ones that will make the most and lasting impact on our students long term in forming habits.
A focal point of habit formation, and the one that’s personally impacted my teaching most, is Imitation Writing. Beginning at the classical grammar level, we understand that these habits will serve our students above and beyond mere content knowledge as they are the building blocks to all other learning. Imitation Writing is a concept that I had to “buy into” as it wasn’t a natural way of thinking for me as a seasoned teacher coming from the public sector. The idea didn’t just seem outdated, but irrelevant and unimportant. You see, what I hadn’t yet realized was the VALUE behind the WHY. Let me explain both of those.
When I remembered that what we are really after is the training in habits, not only information, it became easier to focus on the process. When a child is taught to do something correctly, and then that correct way is modeled again, and again, and again; the child begins to discern what is important about it. Excellence is created and practiced and praised.
Early on, my biggest complaint against Imitation Writing (or copy work) was, “When do the children get to be creative? When can they write what they want to write instead of just being made to copy what we tell them to?”
It didn’t take long before I answered my own questions.
Before teaching at Trinity, I remember having my students do creative writing and using the “sound it out” method when making up their stories to write. I then remembered all the hours and weeks it took to correct and fix the bad habits that would be formed by incorrectly learning to spell words, poor sentence structure, etc.
It was then it dawned on me . . . “why don’t I model it for them and have them copy it correctly the first time. Oh, the time it will save!” Then, it dawned on me again
. . . “Wait, that’s exactly what this Imitation Writing thing is all about.” I’m sold! And now, after doing it this way for five years, the value is in the proof of the product of students that are being passed to the next grade level.
As I reflect on the entire concept, I’m reminded that Jesus himself told us to be Imitators of Him as Paul reminds us "Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ" (1 Cor. 11:1). He tells us this because He knows He is the only perfect model. For us to follow or copy anything else would be less than best, and that’s not what He wants for us. That’s not what we want for our students either, academically or spiritually. I’m proud to teach at Trinity Christian School and be a part of the foundation our students receive as they grow and learn from the youngest of ages!
In college, Mandy Peña attended Western New Mexico University in Silver City and studied Elementary Education. She began teaching in southern California and later moved to Ohio to teach. Mandy went on to get her Master’s degree in Elementary Curriculum and Instruction. She is enjoying being back in the classroom after nine years of being a stay at home mom and homeschool teacher to her two beautiful children.