This week, in my wonderful 3rd grade classroom, we embarked on the “small moment” journey again!  We have done this type of writing a few times in the classroom and the students really love sharing their stories.  As the lesson started, I reminded them of the time we had completed this activity before.  They were excited to tackle the task again.  We read together A Chair For My Mother by Vera B. Williams.


After reading the story, I asked them what they considered the “small moment” in this story.  Some students said it was the money jar.  Other students thought it was the fire and ways they tried collect money for their jar.  Some students mentioned the chair being the small moment.  I asked them why they thought the chair might be the small moment.  I definitely didn’t want to tell them they were right or wrong because in my opinion all of the ideas were correct and each student who spoke of the idea was able to explain why they thought so.  This started a great conversation among my very intelligent, outside of the box thinking 3rd graders.  We spent about 8 minutes reading the story and about 10 talking about their thoughts and ideas.  After we talked about some of the small moments in the story, I geared their thinking towards the chair.  We talked about all the things that was related to the chair and why.  We talked about how one small thing turned into a beautiful story.  My students were starting to ask when they could start writing their story.  I could tell they were anxious to tell their stories.  I asked them to think of some “small moments” that has happened in their life or something that is very special to them that has a story behind it.  On the first day, we only thought about our different small moments.  We didn’t begin writing until the next day.  I wanted to my students to only focus on what they could write about and be able to think about whatever they wanted and more than one idea.  I asked them to only brainstorm some small moment ideas so they could go home that night and really think about the one they wanted to write about.  I also told them that if they thought of something totally different, while they were thinking they could write about that if they chose.  They were able to sort of free write with a little boundary and guidance.  As the students were brainstorming, I walked around and if I saw some students struggling I would read other students examples they had written to spark an idea.  This seemed to help some of the students who couldn’t think of any small moments that have occurred in their lives.  I personally visited their seat and we talked about some things that were important to them or something they remember really well.  This began to help them and when they were able to think of one or two, they were able to get their third one without me guiding them.

One the second day, we discussed small moments and some students shared their ideas of their specific small moments.  I then asked them to simply write about their small moment.  Write what they remember about the moment, what it felt like, smelled like, looked like or tasted like.  They seemed to put pencil to paper and not stop.  Some finished early and asked if they could draw a picture to go with their story and of course I was glad to see their picture and for their story to come to life.  After spending about 15-20 minutes on their writing we had our sharing time!  Below are links to videos of two students sharing their writing in my classroom.  The password to view the video is 123!  ENJOY!

Student Sharing 1

Student Sharing 2


5 thoughts on “small moments make BIG ideas

  1. I think your choice of story of, A Chair For My Mother was a great choice to think about small things and how they can really matter. I like how you gave your students plenty of time to discuss the story, at their own pace, and examine the events to be ready to identify the small moments. I enjoyed watching the videos of your students. What a great way to share what they are doing in the classroom. I love the sequence of the retelling in the first video, I feel like I can see the smile on her face as she goes through the story.


  2. Beth, you chose a great book for exploring a small moment in time. I find that after the students realize that you don’t want them to tell or write about the whole story but to just capture the feeling of one moment, they really get into it. I love the video of the students in the “author’s chair”.


  3. I really enjoyed reading your adventures this week into small moments. What a great choice to focus on small moments. It seems like your students were fully engaged and enjoyed the writing process. It is always fun to sit back and watch to see what children gain from a story. They were very insightful and really seemed to connect with the meaning behind your activity.


  4. These videos are spectacular! Hearing a child read their own writing is such a different experience than reading it silently. These small moment stories really come to life as these two students sit in the author’s chair. The basketball story reminded me of the revision strategy of expanding a moment to a fill a page. Taking one shot in a basketball game could be told in a single sentence but it could also fill as a page as an author develops the inner and outer story.

    One of the mentor texts I’ve used with teaching small stories is Zoom by Banyai. It’s a wordless picture book that keeps zooming in closer and closer with each picture. If you’re interested, here’s a link to a digital version of the book’s illustrations:

    Have you thought about next steps for instruction? Will students write multiple small moment stories before picking one to revise? Or will they work to develop this particular piece more fully? So many options–but what’s most important for now is that your students are engaged and excited about sharing true stories from their lives. Excellent!


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