Law School Academic Support Blog

Editor: Amy Jarmon
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Legal Writing in the Third Grade?

I spent some time this morning in my daughter’s third grade classroom:  you know, one of those family breakfasts where we let the children eat donut holes for breakfast and then leave them with the teachers.  The cause for our celebration this morning was our children’s completion of their first research project.  Each child researched and wrote a report on an animal of her choosing as well as completing a diorama.  Best of all, they did it all at school so we didn’t see any of it until today.

I was blown away at what these kids could do, and even more blown away at the fact that the third grade teachers taught analysis and synthesis techniques to eight and nine-year-olds.

To begin doing their research, the kids did a bunch of reading on their animals (my daughter did owls) and then put their most important bits of information on index cards-the info on the front and the source on the back.  They were given a chapter structure for their report and then had to sort their information cards into those categories (habitat, babies, etc.).  After this activity, they had to write an informative and compelling report about their animals.  Then they had to edit—three times-- before they were done.

Does this sound familiar?  To me this seemed like all the basics of legal writing.  Gather your data, sort and fit it to the format and write an educational and persuasive report on what you have found.  This is also a lot like exam writing technique:  sort out the issues, use your information (rules) and write a compelling report on your findings.   My point here is not that legal analysis is so simple a third grader could do it, but rather, if it can be taught to third graders certainly we should be able to teach it to our students as well.  But we do not always succeed in doing it.  I plan to ask a lot questions at my parent/teacher conference about how it happened in the 3G classroom and will report back.

In the meantime, I am very happy that my child will have learned some of this basic writing technique in third grade.  I hope it repeats in the curriculum as they go forward.  Did you know that snowy owls (like Hedwig in the Harry Potter books and movies) are actually silent and therefore the complaints that Hedwig is noisy must be inaccurate?  I am proud to say I learned that from my third grader's report.   After all, why else did we spend an obscene amount of money to live in the world’s smallest house if not for the schools? (ezs)

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