I wanted to start teaching my students to notice an author’s technique and begin to “try out”some of these techniques in their own writing.

Many of my ideas came from this unit of study by Lucy Calkins and Abby Oxenhorn


I searched for literature that would illustrate a writing quality that I hoped my students would incorporate in their own writing.

I began by reading A Chair for My Mother by Vera B. Williams.  I drew the student’s attention to how Vera takes a small moment and stretches it across a few pages.  We remembered the part where the mother and daughter are walking home and they see their building on fire.  I told them that “Vera could have told that part quickly in just one or two sentences.  Her story could have gone like this, “We got home and saw a fire.  Everyone was safe.”  I explained that instead, Vera had stretched the moment out by telling us tiny details.

I asked the children to think of all the tiny details that Vera Williams included in this story. I drew their attention to the page where the mother and daughter were walking home from buying shoes.  I stopped and instructed the students to turn and tell a friend the tiny details that Vera added to stretch out her small moment.


The children discovered many tiny details that the author added.  One student mentioned that she told things in order one thing after another.  Another student said, “She didn’t just say we looked for our family, she said, mama grabbed my hand and we ran.  My Uncle Sandy saw us and ran to us.”  These were great observations.  I pointed out that the author uses this technique of adding details in order to reach her bigger goal of stretching out a small moment.

I wanted to give the students a glimpse of what I hoped they might pick up and use in their own writing.

For this writing workshop session, I wanted the children to

*Tell a Story from Your Life

*Show what happened, First, Then Next, Then Next …

*Tell a Story and Show it on Paper

In this week’s blog post, instead of showing examples of my most accomplished writers, I chose to spotlight a couple of challenged writers.  These two students worked very hard to get these words on the page.


I’m outside.  It is sunny today.  There’s a tree and a bee’s nest and a flower and a bird.  I’m going to play.  The bees fly out and one lands on me and it doesn’t sting me.

*This student drew a very detailed picture and told a story of how he was playing one day and found a bees nest and the bees started to come out.  This student usually does not write or draw with detail.


One day my dog Bandit got ran over.  It was sad.  My dad got him in the four wheeler tractor and buried him.

At first this student had a string of rambling ideas and an unrecognizable picture.  After conferring with me, he realized that his ideas didn’t tell a story.  He shared with me that his dog had died the night before and I suggested that he write down his story.   He did not have time to draw his picture with this new story. He will likely want to revise this story, add more detail and include a picture.   He may choose to make his story into a book.  This is a very reluctant writer and I hope he finds that he can add meaningful detail to show the reader what happened and how he felt the day his dog died.

We have written a lot in my classroom this year and most of my students are able to write a great deal in a workshop session.  Revision is an area that all of my students are working toward.  However, I was so encouraged this week to see my struggling writers jumping in and getting some content down and being willing to share.






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