As we enter the month of September, many of the fourth and fifth grade classrooms are working on new units of study. Not only new to this year, but also new to them and their teachers. Following the common core state standards focuses on more rigorous writing, the units might be on Raising the Quality of Personal Narratives or Memoir writing. Always before those units have been done in the spring when students have had a chance to collect many different types of writing and can draw from those. Actually, doing it in September is not much different.
As the students are writing their personal stories, this time they will focus on what makes a quality piece of writing. They will write stories that have tension in them, like the Edge of Your Seat stories. They could write pieces that show turning points in their life or life-themes.
This might be a time to go back and review what makes good small moment stories. It would benefit the whole class to again write in their notebooks lists of things that would make a story that would keep their reader on the edge of their seat. Things like: first time they did something, last time, a time they were scared, an important event in their life, or a funny story. These lists would be something done quickly in their notebooks.
Another thing to review at the beginning of this unit would be the list of what makes good writing. This would make a great chart to develop as a class and post in the room. They would be reminded to ask themselves if they are using action, developing dialogue, taking time to add the thinking of the characters. Are they using descriptive details?
Starting off this unit with things that are familiar to you as the teacher as well as the students, keeps the workshop comfortable. By working on collecting these small stories for at least a week gives the writers a chance to feel comfortable in the new community of writers as well as the actual writing taking place. Collecting stories is a great way to begin getting ready for the larger task ahead of them. In the next few weeks they will be asked to spread their wings and try to go deeper and become even better writers.
Remember to take baby steps and enjoy your writing workshop!