Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Authors as Mentors in First Grade

This month many first graders will be using Authors as Mentors as their unit of study. This is a time when students will use various authors as their writing teachers. They will develop styles, strategies and craft like a certain mentor writer. To do this the class will study several authors. They will read books written by the mentor authors and find what makes those writers unique.

First, a mentor author needs to be chosen to start the month. Some of the authors I have used are: Donald Crews, Ezra Jack Keats, Kevin Henkes and Tomie de Paola. As you choose your authors, they should be ones who can help students with craft. What the teacher already knows about her class of writers will help her make that choice.

After one author is chosen, the teacher will do a read aloud reading the book twice--once for enjoyment and once to look for various craft moves. Using a chart with the author's name and perhaps picture on top will be where craft moves of the book are listed. As this author is being studied, different books by him/her will be read each day. The chart will have more craft items listed on it. Students will try to model what they have learned from that day's author in their own writing.

Children will be looking at the world through writer's eyes. They will see things in a different way---a way to turn what they see into a story. In order to capture these details of their lives, they may want to carry Tiny Topic notebooks with them. They can then jot down words or sketches of things that happen in their lives. This will give them a collection of ideas to use as stories.

Lesson: Authors As Mentors: Ezra Jack Keats (The Snowy Day)
Materials: many E.J. Keats books; chart paper
        You have heard lots of books this year. Your teacher has read them to you and you have even read some books.  Who is the person who writes the words in a book? That’s right, the author. Who is the person who draws the pictures in a book? That’s right, the illustrator. Sometimes the author and illustrator are the same person, they do both.  Today and for several days, we are going to look at one author. We are going to look at the book he wrote and see what he did that we could do as writers. Are you ready?
New Learning:
        We are going to start by looking at the author Ezra Jack Keats.  You have already heard many of his books.  He wrote the book: The Snowy Day.  I bet you have heard that book. 
        Let’s make a chart that says: Ezra Jack Keats, and look I have his picture right here.  We will put it up here beside his name.  Remember I said we are going to look at the book The Snowy Day?  Well, I have the picture of the cover and I am going to put it right here. 
         We are going to listen to the book again. But this time I want you to be listening for things that you could do like Mr. Keats is doing. Ready? Read the book to them.
         What did you notice? Pick out things like: put spaces between his words.  He drew the pictures, too. Sometimes wrote only a few words on a page. His words matched his pictures.
Active Engagement:
Turn and talk to your partner about what E.J. Keats did in his book that you could do in your book today. Have a few of them share.
When you go back to your seat today, think about how you could write like Mr. Keats.  He will be your writing teacher. Those of you who do something like Ezra Jack Keats will get to share.  Happy writing!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Preschool With Meron

This week at Gramma Preschool, Meron was learning about "How-to" books. We read several and then she wrote one herself. She also wrote in her Science Notebook about the sunflower that we had picked last fall. This time we looked at the seeds that came off of it and also how the parts had dried. Meron loves working on the ipad, so she was able to do some math and reading on that, too.  Here are pictures of our day:
First, we make an agenda. She then picks the order she wants to do things.  After she finishes one thing, she checks it off the board.
Here she is writing in her Science Journal. We talked about the dried sunflower and discussed the different parts. Then she drew the sunflower in her journal and labeled the parts.
She loves the big books. This is one that we have been reading all year. She now can read it herself. Dave loves to listen to her stories!
Working on the iPad is her favorite thing to do. We do this after all the other areas have been covered. She now is working at the Teach Me Kindergarten level.
Oh, yes...we had Snack Time, too.  Here she is with one of the cookies she frosted and decorated for Valentine's Day. She got to take a bunch of them home to her family.

Monday, January 28, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

The two books I am sharing today are both from the historical fiction genre. The first one is from the era of the riots in the mid-60's. It is written by Eve Bunting and illustrated by David Diaz. The book is: Smoky Night and takes place in Los Angeles. The book has a way of making you feel like you are right there in the midst of the action. The illustrator uses painting in acrylics on Arches watercolor paper. The effect is different and appropriate for the subject matter. The bonus of this book is the moral of the story which shows how all people can work together and become friends no matter how different they are.
I can't go through the month without having one or two Patricia Polacco books. January's Sparrow was a new one to me. This historical fiction book is again from real life inspiration of the author. It takes place in Marshall, Michigan close to where Patricia lives. Her home  was once an inn for the Undergraound Railroad, so she is familiar with the happenings of this area. 

The Crosswhite family flee the Kentucky plantation where they were slaves. They travel across the Ohio River and make their way north to Michigan where they are finally free! But then the slave catchers come!  Be sure to check out Patricia's website for more ideas...  

Friday, January 25, 2013

Informational Writing--How-to Books

In February, many kindergarten classrooms will be working on the unit of study for informational writing. The focus of this unit will be How-To books. This is building on the progression of this type of nonfiction writing. It is amazing what these little ones can do when we raise our expectations.

The first resource I would like to give teachers is the All Write website. If you click on the previous words you will go to a series of lessons on How-To writing for K-2. This comes from the website. Since the lessons are written for several grade levels, the teachers will need to make them fit their students. The other resource would be the Lucy Calkins set of units of study for primary. It is on nonfiction writing and has a section on the how-to writing. There is also available in that set various types of paper the children can use for this writing. However, for the little ones in kindergarten, it might be helpful to use a page for each step of the procedure they are writing.

A few books that I would recommend for writing step-by-step books are:
  • Goodtime Cookbook For Boys & Girls by John Mongillo  It has everything from making celery sticks to sweet potato balls. It gives What You Need and also What to Do.  A great way to share procedural writing.
  • Growing Vegetable Soup by Lois Ehlert. This book is not an actual step by step book, but shows students how things need to be first, second, next, and last.
  • How to Lose All Your Friends by Nancy Carlson. This twist on how to do something is a funny book with great illustrations. It is a six-step way to lose friends.
  • 10-Step Guide to Living with Your Monster by Laura Numeroff. This is another twist on the how to book idea. It gives steps such as Feeding Your Monster and Going Places With Your Monster.
  • Many of Gail Gibbons' books have a section in them about how to do something. They are also great resources.
Hopefully, these books will become touchstone texts for your students to model their own writing!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

What About Independent Projects

Writing Workshop is usually filled with students writing in the current unit of study genre. That is how it is now set up in many classrooms around the country. When I was first introduced to workshop, I had no official unit of study to follow. There were very few professional books focusing on just writing for students. My writing workshop resembled a workshop. When I thought of my father's workshop set up in our garage, there were various projects going on. In fact, I was even able to have a corner filled with extra wood, a few tools, and loads of ideas. My own workshop.

It is important for students to still have time to write their own individual projects. Recently, I had the chance to see a classroom full of independent projects and it brought back memories of the activities in my former second grade classroom. The room I visited was a fifth grade, but things were similar.

The teacher gave a mini lesson just like normal. This time it was a lesson that could be used in any genre. It was: Writers Sometimes Create a  New Word to Fit a Piece of Writing.  She used mentor texts by Lewis Carroll and Dr. Seuss for examples. The children were then challenged to try making up a word for a special purpose in their writing that day.

While students were writing, I slipped around the room and conferenced with four of them. One boy was writing a narrative, sort of a fantasy writing. His character, which he named Tyler for his own middle name, was warning everyone that the world was coming to an end due to the earthquakes happening in the ocean. We made a plan of how the story would go and he set off to save the world.

Another student was writing poetry using made-up words.  After reading her poem, we decided she was writing like Dr. Seuss and we took off to find a book by him to use as her mentor text. Her plan when I left her, was to write a poem for each of the members of her family.

My last student to conference with was getting a head start on the next unit of study: historical fiction. She had decided to use the genre of journal writing for this task. She was in her notebook writing entries by her character. She had researched common slave names for the main character because her piece was going to be set in pre-civil war times. We made a plan for her story and even talked about possible mentor texts for her.

Having independent projects for children gives them a chance to write in a genre that was already taught. It might be a genre that they enjoyed but didn't have enough time to pursue it further and write more.  This is the goal of writing workshop: For Children to Become Lifelong Writers!  Try it when you get done with a unit of study!!!

Friday, January 18, 2013

No More "I Like" Stories in Kindgergarten

This month many kindergarten classrooms will be pushing their students to higher levels in writing. They will still be doing small moment stories, but now they will be helping them to go further. One almost magical way to get them to do this is to use the "Magic Words of Story". This small technique is the easiest way to get your five-year-olds to move from writing: "I like my mom. My mom is nice." into writing actual small moment stories. 

When your student starts to tell a story about mom being nice and liking mom, simply stop them and say..."One time...." and magically they will tell a "one-time" story.  I am including in this blog a sample of a lesson for using Magic Words of Story. You will be amazed at how this transforms your students' writing!

Lesson: Small Moment Story with Magic Words of Story

Materials: chart with Magic Words on it
                   Blank chart paper for my story.

You have been doing lots of writing.  I know when I write it is easier for me to write about things that actually have happened to me.  Today we are going to try to do that in this class.  I sometimes have trouble though getting started.  I am going to teach you a strategy today that will help you if you have trouble getting started with your stories.
I have something that helps me.  I call it Magic Words of Story.  You know what a magician is…he does magic.  When he wants something to magically appear he uses magic words.  Well, when I want a story to appear, I use magic words…the magic words of story.  I have made a chart with some of them on. (Show chart with: One time, Once, On Monday, Yesterday, Last Friday…)  

I am going to write my story now.  First I have to think what I want to write about.  (Take time to think.)
I know I will write a story about my sister.  “One time after supper my mom said, “Kathy, do the dishes.”  I didn’t want to do the dishes.  I said, “Why doesn’t Kris have to do the dishes?” I asked my mom.  “Kris is going to practice her piano,.” Mom said.  I was mad!

Now I will write my story.  But how will I start it.  Oh, I know I will use the Magic Words of Story.  I think I will use: One time…
One time I had to do the dishes.  My sister got to practice the piano.  I did not want to do the dishes.  I was mad!

 Do you see how I used those words and a story appeared like magic?

Active Engagement: Let’s try it.  Think of something you can write about.  Remember it has to be a story that happened to you.  Give me a thumbs up when you have an idea.  Now which of the magic words will you use?  Give me a thumbs up when you know.  Turn to your partner and tell them what magic words you will use.

From now on, if you get stuck and can’t think of how to start your story, you can just look up at the Magic Words and a story will magically appear!


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Opinion Writing for Second Graders

This month many second graders are working on opinion writing in their writer's workshop. All second graders have opinions on a variety of things, so this should be a fun unit of study for them. The challenge will be to be sure they are organized in the writing and that they stay focused as well as learning the components involved. Thinking about how I would plan out my unit, I came up with a day-to-day plan. Since it is almost second semester, I might begin using a writer's notebook for each student. That, of course, depends on the students themselves. Each teacher needs to decide if the students are ready for this step. If not, a special folder for this unit might be helpful.

The first day or so would be used to collect lists. In the notebook (or sheet of paper in the folder), they would make a variety of lists. I might suggest a list and give them a few minutes to write their list in the notebook. Then I would give them another suggestion. Another way to do this would be to have a list of suggestions on a chart or have them come up with a list as you chart their ideas. Some ideas are favorites of: places to eat, places to visit, things to eat, t.v. shows, books to read, movies.  Sharing for these days would be simply having the circle of students give one or two samples from their lists.

For another couple days the students would begin doing Quick Writes in their notebooks (or collecting them in the folder). They would pick ONE idea from the many lists. They would write about why this was their lots of reasons and details. This is a Quick Write so they probably will finish this and be ready for another one. They might do two or three in a writing period. They would continue to collect these pieces for the first few days of the unit. Sharing each of the days would be to share one of the pieces they have written. Not all students would have time to share so it might be a good time to do partner sharing. By doing that, the children will get an idea for which of their pieces they enjoy most and might want to add to it later.

Now it is time to get "serious" about the writing. They will pick just one of the pieces they have done in the Quick Writes. It is now time to leave the notebook and begin drafting an actual piece to put their "blood, sweat, and tears" into as this unit continues. After drafting the piece they will be spending several days revising that piece. Your mini lessons might be: adding details (show not tell; using senses), using specific language to persuade, using stories or anecdotes, keeping the audience in mind.  When they finish one piece with the revisions, they would simply go to another and work on that one. This part of the unit of study will last for a couple weeks.

The next step is to pick one of those revised pieces to "make public". This would be something the students can send to the restaurant they like or to the library recommending a certain book. In other words, they will have a REAL reason to write! The mini lessons for this time would be working on persuasion in the writing and even working on a catching ending.

The last step is to actually send these pieces out into the world. You might have to use some imagination with this step, but it is worth it when you see your students realize they DO have a voice in the world!!! 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

A Day at Gramma Preschool

Our curriculum in Gramma preschool consists of: Reading, Writing, Math, Science and a Snack!  For only a couple hours, this is a full morning! We are now in our fifth month of preschool, so we are developing skills in making choices. Since Meron only comes twice a month, we need to increase our rigor in a timely manner.

Meron made the choice for our agenda for the day.  It would consist of Reading, Snack, Science, Writing, and then Math.  In each area she had choices to make. For reading she started off with various books about winter. Her favorite was: Snowmen at Night.  I did a read-aloud and we discussed the emotions of the snowmen. She was able to take that book home for her "library" book.
Next came snack time. She made "ants on a log". We made a list of the steps to make this snack and she took some home to make for her family.
After the snack came science. She learned she had to investigate. After opening her Science Box, she found an old shell.  Her question was: What kind of shell is this? She used her magnifying glass and her senses to come up with the answer.  It was a turtle shell.
Next came writing time.  She decided to write a book about playing air hockey with her brother. She told the story first and planned each page. Then she drew the picture on one page and added the words. She decided to give the book to her brother when she got home!
Last of all, was math time. We played a math game and then she had to do some sorting. She sorted the toy by colors. Then we talked about which color had more...without counting, what did she think? Then we talked about which color had fewer. Counting came last.
We had a great day. Meron learned lots and was great at making choices.  Dave was very tired at the end of the morning!

Monday, January 14, 2013

What Are You Reading?

 Again today I will be talking about two books from different genres. The books are choices for mentor text in the genre your students are writing this month. The first book is Can I Have a Stegosaurus, Mom? by Lois G. Grambling. This is great for second graders writing opinion pieces. The little boy wants the perfect pet...a stegasaurus. The outlandish fantasy gives reasons why he should have this pet. Since we want our students to be sure to give reasons and back up their reasons with stories, this is the book to share with them. The book has an extra bonus with the surprise ending!  It is another craft move for these budding authors to add to their collection.
For the historical fiction mentor text, I have chosen one by one of my favorite authors. Barb Olenyik Morrow lives in my hometown of Auburn, IN and is a friend. I have heard her tales of doing research for this book and the passion she has for the subject. A bonus would be to actually have her come to your school and tell about how she did the research.

The book is A Good Night for Freedom and is based on historical events. The book takes you to Indiana and the Levi Coffin home. There, two runaway slaves, young girls, are taking refuge. It is a stop on the Underground Railroad. Hallie, who is the same age as the runaways, accidently sees the girls in her aunt's basement. Now it is up to her to keep quiet or obey the law and tell what she knows. The craft move of keeping the readers on "the edge of their seats" is used in this book, too. 

Friday, January 11, 2013

Informational Writing in Third Grade

The following is a unit of study for third graders. This is a transition from the All About type of writing to the feature article or informational writing.
Informational Writing
All About Books leading to a Featured Article
(3rd Grade – approx. a 4 week study)

 Materials and Resources:
Nonfiction Writing: Procedures and Reports by Calkins and Pessah
Nonfiction Craft Lessons: Teaching Information Writing K-8 by Portalupi and Fletcher


The week prior to this study immerse students to the nonfiction genre through Interactive Read Alouds, workstations activities, small group work, and Independent–level reading.  Continue this immersion throughout the entire genre study.

 Suggested Text:
Gail Gibbons Books
True Books
Nonfiction big books
Weekly Reader, Time for Kids, Highlights, National Geographic

 Days 1 and 2:
Develop a word web from the noticings from the prior week’s investigation of nonfiction text.  Select two or three texts that have clear attributes of an All About Book (If possible, find a big book or take pages that exemplify particular components of an All About Book).  From the students noticings and the mentor texts develop a list of the key components ~ table of contents, how-to-page, headings, pictures with captions, different-kinds-of, glossary, diagrams, fun facts, zoom in, index, etc. ~ All About Books often have. Have students generate lists, in their notebooks, of topics that they could develop into an All About Book.

 Day 3:
Model selecting a topic that could be “meaty” enough to develop into an All About Book.  Have students look at the lists they created yesterday, then “turn and talk” with an elbow buddy which topic they might write about.  Have each person share their topic in the circle.   Those who are still undecided say “Pass” and remain with the teacher for help when other students are dismissed to begin the book’s cover, “All About.”

 Day 4 - 8:
Scaffold or support the students in their efforts by modeling a different page or pages each day.  Show any book that has a page that shows various examples of the subject.  Gail Gibbons’ book, Apples, has an excellent example. 

Show overhead of several pieces of children’s work from previous years or other classrooms.  (If you don’t have any, save pieces your kids are doing this year for the next time you teach this.  If you don’t have student samples, use additional published books to give more examples.)  Make a few kids famous by sharing examples they have transferred into their own pieces from the day’s mini –lesson

Day 9:
Do the first page of the book, the introductory page.  Talk about the need to provide the reader with background information.  Remind them what it takes to have a good beginning and a grabber lead.  How do you get the audiences attention? Be sure students tell what their book is going to be about in this introductory page.

Share some good introduction pages and do your own for your book.  They do that page.

Day 10:
They can add any other pages they want.  They may want to have a glossary or table of contents or an author’s page.  They may want to add more information pages. 

When they are finished writing, pages should be assembled and numbered before making a table of contents page.  Model that for students.  This is a time that the students can do things they have seen other authors do.

 Day 11 - 12:
Revise and edit books.  Offer mini-lessons based on observed student needs.  Put the book together and work on the assessment page.  They could put in a dedication page before you staple or bind it. 

 Day 13:
Discuss with students how they are now going to move away from their all about pieces and select a topic for a featured article.  Explain that a featured article is the same genre however the author focuses on one aspect of the topic and goes deeper into the understanding of that topic through a particular lens or focus.  Share a few simple featured articles from student work or student magazines and identify the “angles” or focus of each article.

Revisit the list you developed at the beginning of the nonfiction study and have the students do the same from their notebooks.  Possibly adding to their lists.  Have students circle three things that they would be interested in developing into a featured article.  Sharing on this day might be a “whip” share with students telling their possible topics.  Have students begin narrow in one and determine possible focuses of their piece inside their notebooks.

 Day 14:
Put each topic on the top of a page and then write as much as they can about that topic. (Try to fill the pages.) Model doing one of these with a topic you could do.  What do they want the audience to know or learn?  Show them some articles and discuss the focus of those pieces.  Pick a possible topic with options for its focus.  Make an umbrella and put the topic in the umbrella and the topic off to the top side. Think of possible subsections that would go with this focus.  Have them make raindrops with possible subsections in them. Make as many as they can on each topic. Look at articles for ideas about sections. 

 Day 15 - 16:
Begin drafting - write about what you already know. Talk about using facts, quotes and voice in the piece.  Use sample text to show this. Putting voice in the writing can be done through word choice, asides or by writing in second person.  Also, a lesson can be done in transitions. Show how to use subheadings, bullets, and topic sentences. Students will work in their drafts.  Share relevant pieces.

 Day 17 & 18:
Work on lead page and conclusion page the same way.  Make a sheet for each one.  Show sample text and discuss how the lead should grab the attention of the reader. It should also tell what the article is going to be about.

 Do the same with the conclusion. Show them some endings and model one for them.  Write an ending that brings closure to the article.  The ending should finalize what they have been saying in the article.

 Day 19:
Go back to each page and revise. Make sure it sounds right. Could you do anything to make it sound better?  Did you leave out any words? Does it make sense? Is it interesting? Does it have voice? Did you use transition words? Develop a title.  Students may even work with their writing partner to support the revision process.

 Day 20:
Go to each page and work on editing. Is there a capital at the beginning of each sentence and punctuation at the end?  Are there any run-on sentences? Look for misspelled words.

 Select a day to celebrate their work – invite parents, principal, other staff members:

Prior to the celebration have students select from their featured article or their All About Book to share during the celebration. 

You can have the students do a celebration by reading other papers in their class.  Put the papers on their desks. Beside each paper put a “review sheet”.  Their name should be on the top. Show them how the review sheet works.  Talk about appropriate things to write.  Discuss with students that they will have to read fast in order to have an adequate amount of time to construct and write their review.  They will then move to the chair beside them and review that article or All About Book. They will read it and write a review.  After a pre-set amount of time, they will then move to the next desk. The review can be added to the article when finished.

Make sure it is clear that writing featured articles or All About Books is something that they can continue to do in workshop. They may have other topics they would like to explore and write about. They now have the tools to do that.

*** Each day remember to take time to SHARE!


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Historical Fiction...the Beginning

The unit of study of historical fiction for fourth and fifth grade students is something a little different.  Yes, they have written in fiction and even done narrative writing over the years, but this genre is different in that it needs to have some research along with the normal writing skills. I recently visited a fifth grade classroom as they were starting this unit. Today, I am going to share with you what I saw this teacher and the students doing to begin the unit.

So many decisions have to be made before this unit even begins.  I realized that the teacher had decided to use the social studies unit of study as the basis for this writing unit. She felt that the students would get their background and much of their research while studying that content area.  However, she did not use that era of time to model or 'teach' the form of this genre. 

She started off one day by just discussing the difference between nonfiction writing and historical fiction writing. The students then made individual lists of ways they were different. This list was to give the teacher an idea of where the children were with their knowledge and where she should start her teaching.

The next day she shared with them the book they would be using as the read-aloud for the month.  It was Number The Stars by Lois Lowry. They would be looking at it not just as a reading tool but also as a writing tool. Before they began the book, they read a piece called: "A Bright Star Over Denmark". This gave them some background knowledge of this era.

After reading and discussing some of Number The Stars, they all had questions. That was good! So they went to their seats and started listing those questions in their notebooks. Now it was time to do some investigating. Each table of students was given a box of 8-10 books. The books were a variety of nonfiction, such as biography or autobiography, and historical fiction. Their job was to put them into two piles: Nonfiction in one and Historical Fiction in the other.

They worked on this as a group for several minutes. Next, each group picked one book from each pile. Going around the room, a child from each group explained why they put that book into a certain pile.  This became a great discussion as various groups had different ideas. The characteristics of each genre became more and more clear.  A chart was made next. One side of the chart had characteristics of nonfiction writing and the other side had characteristics of historical fiction writing. They also came up with a "middle ground" where things were in both genres.

One thing we emphasized was WHY are we making this chart? Some students said, "So we can do well on the state test." Some said, "So you know we were listening." But the real answer was, "Because we are going to be writing this genre and need to know what it looks like!"  Again, we are talking REAL reasons to learn something...not just for testing!

Students seem to be excited about learning more about Number The Stars and about being authors of historical fiction!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Reading is a Family Affarir

Every year for Christmas, I get each of the twelve grandchildren at least one book. This is a tradition that I have been doing for several years. It is interesting to think about the age of the child, the child's interest and then what book would be appropriate for that person. Some are easy...

With the little ones two years old and under, I think about what they might like and get a board book or one with lots of pictures. For Bam this year, I got a book way out of his two-year-old reading level.  The book I picked was a small nonfiction book with loads of pictures of horses. I wanted one that he could look at and carry around with him.  He is a fanatic about horses.  It was a hit!

For the four-year-old girls, I picked another nonfiction book, one by Frank Serafini. Those books were taking a closer look at a familiar object. I was hoping it would help with their writing skills, too.

The 11-year-old girls got Mr. Terupt books. This book is one that many fifth graders are reading in their classrooms. I knew both of our girls at this age level would love it because they are both such avid readers.

For the older boys, it was a bit more difficult. For one middle school grandson, I got a book about going into  middle was fiction. For our Freshman grandson, I got one of John Grisham's books for teens. Our high school grandson was a bit more difficult. I knew he had loved the Hunger Games books. Then a friend recommended another series that most lovers of the Hunger Games also loved.  Hopefully, it will be a hit with him!
The most fun this Christmas came after the girls got their new pajamas from Grandma. They all put them on and modeled them for us. Then our eleven-year-old went to my "library" of children's books and picked one that she loved. She brought the book, a blanket, and the two four-year-olds up stairs to the middle of our gathering. There they spread out on the floor while she read to the other two. It was a perfect way for this grandma to see her gifts being used!

Monday, January 7, 2013

It's Monday, What Are You Reading?

This month many classrooms are doing a variety of new writing units of study. A couple of them are historical fiction in fifth grade and opinion writing in second grade. During this month's Monday Blogs, I will be focusing on both of those genres. Even if you are not currently writing in one of those styles, it might be beneficial for you to glance at the books I will be sharing. The genres are repeated throughout the school year at various grade levels and the books may be useful at a later time.
The first book I am sharing with you is Earrings! by Judith Viorst.  I love this book because it is exactly the way children of this age act!  As you read the book, I am sure you will visualize someone in your life who is just like the girl in the story. The author tells us that as she interviewed several young girls, one thing she heard over and over was that no matter how much they pleaded and argued their parents would not let them get their ears pierced until they were older.  She knew right then she had a good book idea. How perfect for second grade opinions!

Since this is a common plea with young girls, it will be a great mentor text to get them excited about having an opinion! This will be a wonderful book to  kick off your introduction of opinion writing!
Historical fiction is something that fifth grade students have been reading for several years. Since they are familiar with this genre in their reading time, it may be easier for them to try their hand at writing it. They will use things they know about narrative writing and fiction writing as they start off this unit of study. Still, this genre will take more research than other narrative writing. The first decision you will have as a teacher is what era the children will write about...will they all write in the same era or will they choose their own.  Lots of questions. I will try to share over the month several different eras to support the decision you make.

The first book in this genre is The Harmonica by Tony Johnson. The book was inspired by a true story. Henryk Rosmaryn, the main character, was taken as a young boy to a concentration camp in 1939. There, with the help of the harmonica that his father had taught him to play, he survived the hardship of prison life. This book will show students how research is necessary in this type of writing.