It’s happening! I’m blogging! To all who have been following, thank you for waiting patiently for me. This year has just been…cah-razy! But…I’m back!
I wanted to share with you our most recent writing experience…well…in Writer’s Workshop, anyway. We started the year with narrative, then moved to expository, and now we are back to narrative. We switch around the entire year to get the students used to figuring out their purpose for writing and showing how it changes. So…that being said…this is how our narratives have evolved from an idea.
We started out with our text structure and kernel essay. We do this on our planning page. You can download your FREE copy here. For narratives, our structure is always: Where I was –>Moment It Started–>Next Moment–>Last Moment–>Final Thoughts. Once students get the hang of that, they start asking questions like, “What if I want to put a problem and solution in my story?” or “Can I start with a sound?” or “Is it ok if I put what I hope happens in the future at the end?” Yes, friends, yes!
For now, we are still getting the hang of using this text structure. And I’m ok with that. So we filled out our text structure, came up with our kernel essays, and then began our introductions. I’m still walking the kids through their papers…at least the first couple of paragraphs.
Once we finished our first couple of paragraphs together, I let the students go ahead and finish out their papers on their own…unless, of course, they still needed my guidance. I don’t freak out right now when students still ask for help. For one, THEY ARE ASKING FOR HELP! Isn’t that what we WANT them to do? And two, some just need more help than others. It’s my job to help them. The more experience they have with asking questions (and me modeling the kinds of questions they SHOULD ask themselves), the better…in my opinion, anyway.
When they were all finished, I had them “color up” their own writing. This is an activity where you have students go back into their own writing and use markers, colored pencils, or crayons to underline their sentences according to what Writer’s Tool they used in order to create it. If it was a description, they underline in blue. If it was dialog, it’s red. If it was a thought, it’s yellow. If it was action, it’s green. And then the few that say, “It’s really just a little bit of information.” Those we underlined in black.
We actually pulled our rough drafts out of our notebooks and put them onto some manilla paper…not for this activity, but for the one that comes next. As you can see, EVERY sentence is underlined with color. Is it important that they get every single one correctly identified? No…but a little help from the teacher goes a long way with this one. The purpose is for students to see what they are using and notice trends.
Does my paper have too much of this? Not enough of that? Does this paragraph have only one color? Did I see that one of my sentences WAS my whole paragraph? Those questions begin discussions of how we can revise (or edit in the case of the last question) our papers to make them better.
After doing some noticing about the colors, we decided what needed to be added to our papers. We discussed how the best papers have lots of thoughts so that the reader can see inside the writer’s mind…to get a feel for how he/she REALLY felt. It helps to paint a better picture of what was going on.
That lead us into our revision stations. These stations were designed to make students question themselves about what could be added to help the reader picture the story. You can grab a copy of the revision stations here.
We spent about 10 minutes at each station, adding information to our papers. Students would draw an arrow from the spot where it would be inserted out to the side of their paper where they had room to write it.
At the beginning of each station, I had students reread their papers. Yes, this meant rereading several times. Don’t you love it when that happens? Students were required to reread with the new information to be sure that they placed it in an appropriate place. Yeah…we’re practicing inserting sentences in a fun way! Imagine that!
Anyway, students were required to add information that was relevant and meaningful to their papers. They did not add sentences just to add them. Some of them chose NOT to write anything extra when a certain color came their way because they already had enough (or too much) of that color.
We finished up the stations by…you guessed it…rereading our papers again. I asked them to share with a partner, too, so that others could hear what the story sounded like. Sometimes, as the writer, we feel like it sounds right, but when others hear it…not so much.
The last step is publishing. We still aren’t finished with that, but when we are, I’ll be sharing the first writing samples of the year. I’ll try to also post some expository samples as well.
So there you have it. The process from our ideas to our final copy. Do I do it this way EVERY time? No. Many times we will have mini-lessons to teach a certain skill with our papers. This time around, it was a quicker process due to time constraints. But it was fun, nonetheless.