Thursday, August 16, 2012

Starting a New Year

Today was the first day for teachers in the school district I retired from last spring. As all the teachers headed to their schools for special professional development, I sat on our deck with a cup of tea and my golden retriever, Dave. The air was crisp. The sky was picture perfect blue. I simply sat and meditated on the awesome view.

The teachers were thinking of the new students they would be meeting in just a few short days. Many of them were wondering how they were going to start their new writer's workshop and if the new common core state standards would make a big difference in their instruction. A few days ago, I received an email from a third grade teacher wondering just that. I thought that might be an interesting way to start my blogging experience as a non-teacher/consultant.

Having students love writing and feel comfortable putting their thinking on paper is the most important part of teaching writing. Things really have not changed in what we are to be teaching now with the new standards. What is different is that we are now expecting MORE out of our students.

With all that said, my suggestion is for third through fifth graders to start with their writer's notebooks. Beginning with lists of ideas is always a good was to start. Turn to the first page and at the top of the page write: FAMILY.  Under that heading students would list titles of stories they could write about their family. This has to be modeled orally or written by the teacher. For example the teacher might say: "My first story might be about the time my  mom braided my hair.  I will write---'Mom Braiding My Hair'.  The students would only need about three minutes to get a list started. Time to add to that list would come on other days.

Other titles for other pages might be: FRIENDS, PETS, PLACES, FAVORITE FOODS, etc.
Each list would only take no more than three minutes. No stories would be written today, just the gathering of ideas.  I like to think of these as Seed Ideas. One teacher is even adding seed packets to the front of their notebooks to remind the students that like seeds their ideas will bloom into stories.

Sharing for this day would be a "Whip Share". Students gathered at the sharing area in a big circle would tell ONE of their ideas...simply giving the title they wrote. Again, no actual stories would be shared, just titles.

Again, remember: Having students love writing and feel comfortable putting their thinking on paper is the most important part of teaching writing!  Happy Writing!!!


Michelle said...

Great idea! I am going to use it!

Ercan Aksoy said...

good. ;)

Amy said...

Tea and Dave on the back patio sounds like heaven! :) My kiddos did some revision work on their summer feature article work this week. We also did some quckwrites...but never have I done one on family! I think we will do that very soon! :)

Amy said...

Okay, after our first week together again (due to our looping) I confirmed my suspicions. THese kids need some lessons in elaboration. We talked about ways of stretching out some of the boxes of our feature articles...but it wasn't natural yet totally a revision technique. So that is where we are going. AND...with your family stories idea I will begin :)

I plan to start with the family stories list. Then I plan to show them Ralph's memoir poem work from Mentor Authors Mentor Texts. We will talk about it and how it relates to family stories. Then I think I will invite them to the structure he mentions in his description of the poem structure. I have the kind of class who has its favorite kinds of writing and own side projects, so I have a feeling only 50% of them will go for this invitation.

I will follow with a lesson on the pillars of poetry--linking back to Ralph's poem, and introducing Daniel Beaty's "Knock Knock" and I will invite them to keep going on their poem on family or try another and work on elaboration as a way to create the image, emotion, or musical quality.

The next step is a walk outside with a writing marathon. I will push them to take all of these elaboration techniques we have talked about all week and try it as a first draft kind of try. That is my push to keep inviting the poetry. I find it a safe place to try out new crafts...and I hope they will too. Some will do it, others will just write. But we will search what we have written for beautiful elaboration when we get back to the room and writing the next day and create a collaborative poem full of beautiful elaboration.

Thanks for giving me the idea...woo hoo!