Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Writers Notice Things and Write Them Down

As you are preparing to finish your year, one of the things that is probably on your mind is: How can I encourage my students to be lifelong writers now that they are leaving me?  I was asked to do lessons with students as they attended their last few days of the school year. I would only have them for 1/2 hour. What could I teach them in that short time to help them be better writers? That was my thinking as I prepared for that day.

My lesson ended up being: Writers notice things and write them down.  Here is the lesson I came up with for notebook writing and helping students to be better observers and therefore, better writers. It might be something you want to try with your students on these last days of the year.

Writers notice things and write them down
Lesson: Notebook Work….Snapshots
I really enjoy taking pictures. One thing I take pictures of is just snapshots of things I observe around my neighborhood. I observe things very closely. Let me show you a couple of my snapshots. [Show pictures of daisies and two bird nest pics]

What do you observe in these pictures? Turn and Talk
When I took those shots, what senses did I use? Turn and Talk

When we write, we also need to be good observers. Using our senses helps with that. I want to show you an example of how one student did that. [Use from LWN N-5] Quinnee is in 4th grade. She took a walk outside and wrote this in her notebook. As I read it, notice which of the senses she used. Turn and Talk
You can do this, too. You can collect snapshots of your world with words. You might even want to add a drawing or sketch if you think that would enhance the snapshot you’re trying to create. You don’t have to go to a faraway place to find ideas to write about. If you get in the habit of observing, you’ll find that there are plenty of things close by.

Today we are going to make a snapshot book to collect our snapshots. [Make book—foldable—put sense on each page & page for wonderings] We are going outside, quietly, and become observers. As a writer, you should do TWO things:

1.    Notice things
2.    Get in the habit of writing them down

(This lesson was taken from ideas from Lessons for the Writer's Notebook by Ralph Fletcher and JoAnn Portalupi.)

Friday, May 3, 2013

Making Revision Work For You in the Classroom

In May, many classrooms are doing a unit of study on revision.  Actually, all classrooms should be discussing revision as a tool for their workshop. This time of year is when students reflect on what they know about revision no matter what genre they are writing. This is a great time to allow students to choose the genre they want to write and then incorporate the revision study with all those genres. I decided I would share with you some of the books I have used as help for me when I teach this unit or when I see children doing something that needs further study. Here are a few of my favorites.
The book: The No-Nonsense Guide to Teaching Writing by Judy Davis and Sharon Hill is one of my most used books. It has chapters on various units of study and it is easy to follow. There is also one chapter on revision. It is called: 'Mastering the Magic of Revision'. What a great way to think of revision.  It is not a time that you have to go back and rip out and start over. It is a magical time to make your piece come alive.
Making Revision Matter is by Janet Angelillo. She is a favorite author of many in northeastern Indiana because she has visited and trained many of us. I have this book tabbed with loads sticky notes hanging out of it. First of all, she gives actually mini lessons that teachers can use from the beginning of the year to the end of the year. She also has a year long curriculum with ways to teach revision in various genre studies. As she takes the reader through the year she shows how to deepen the study of revision.

If you are always asking yourself: "How can I get my students to revise their writing?", then this is the book for you. The Revision Toolbox by Georgia Heard not only gives basic ideas on how to revise. She talks about how to get the students to know the difference between revision and editing. She uses three main toolboxes: words, structure, and voice. She also has a chapter on conferencing techniques just for revision.

I love this quote by Barry Lane: "Until a teacher promotes choice and responsibility among her students, the tools of craft this book has to offer won't help students become writers." This is the practical way Barry undertakes in writing After The End. His simple samples of ideas to use in inviting students to revise is so beneficial to teacher who do not have time to read whole books or even whole chapters to find what they need to teach. By simply picking up the book, opening to any page, there will be an idea for a lesson. Barry also encourages teachers to become writers themselves. "For years researchers like Donald Graves have done work to show that teachers who can model writing process through their own writing have a tremendous advantage in transforming their classroom into a community of writers." This is a challenge for teachers as they are looking forward to some "down time" in a few weeks. Take some time to become writers yourself. This is the best way to prepare for the fall and a new year with a community of writers!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

How To Pump Gas

We are winding down our Gramma Preschool. The things we are doing are all coming together and Meron is feeling more and more anxious about going to kindergarten next year. I want to be sure she has everything she needs to be successful as she enters her years of schooling.

This week for writing I let her take the lead.  I asked her what she wanted to write about for that session.  We talked about writing a story. I suggested writing about what she had learned about magnets. That was our science project for our day. She had discovered that magnets picked up some things and didn't pick up others. We put our findings in her Science Notebook. She had another idea. She wanted to write about how to pump gas.
On our way from her house to Gramma's house, we had to stop and get gas. Her first question was, "Can I help pump the gas?"  I thought about it. Well, it would take longer if she "helped". Still, it would make a great learning experience. 

I pulled up to the pump and she piled out of the backseat. I popped open the door for the gas to be pumped and she unscrewed the cap. I put the credit card in the slot. Each thing we did, I explained what was happening. We put the hose into the car and held the handle down. Then we did a counting exercise as we counted up the gallons of gas going into the car. After awhile it was full and the hose clicked to tell us to stop. We then put the hose back into the pump, she screwed on the cap and shut the gas door. Climbing into the backseat again, she said, "I know how to pump gas, don't I Gramma?"

That is where she got her idea for the book. Not only did she want to write that book, she also knew who the audience would be. As she wrote she said, "I want to give this book to Audrey for her birthday!"  Audrey is her four-year-old cousin.  You never know when you will have to help someone pump gas!