With a couple of two hour delays, I was only able to teach one mini-lesson this week. I always begin the day by reading a book and some poems to my class. Since I did not have the book, Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey, needed for this mini-lesson, we watched it on YouTube. Thank goodness for YouTube!

After LetterLand, I began the lesson. I read a three line very watered down version of The Leaving Morning by Angela Johnson to my students. I asked them if that was enough to make a good book. Of course they all said, “NO!”. I told them they were absolutely correct. I told them today we were going to learn something new from Angela Johnson and it is that writers get some information from their minds, but they also do research to add more details to their writing. I explained that research is when you take a close look at something you want to learn more about.

I asked them if they remembered the story Make Way for Ducklings from earlier this morning which they did. I told them how the author Robert McCloskey wrote that book about something that had happened one day long ago. He had seen some ducks walk across a busy street in a city and all the traffic had stopped for them. When he decided to write a book about that small moment, he needed to do some research about ducks because he did not know a lot about ducks. They laughed and giggled when I told them he got a couple of ducks and kept them in his apartment in New York City. They thought it was so funny when I told them he would put them in his bathtub!

Now we do not know if Angela Johnson did research before writing The Leaving Morning. I told my class she could have moved herself as a young child and is using her memories. She could have watched a family moving one day and noticed men in blue uniforms. She could have talked with someone who had recently moved. We do know that authors like Angela Johnson and Robert McCloskey often get details for their stories by doing research.

I told my class we were going to write a story about the tornado drill we had last week. I asked for possible titles for our story and went with The Tornado Drill. I asked for volunteers to start our story and continued in this manner until the story was finished.


I then told them we were going to do some research in order to remember more details about the tornado drill. We all stood up and I told them to pretend it was the day of the drill. I asked them to think about what they heard, saw or felt. We went out into the hall and got in our positions on the floor. I asked them to try to remember how they felt during the drill. We got up after a few moments and went back into the room. Once everyone was seated on the carpet, I asked if anyone remembered anymore details to add to our story. I thought they did a fabulous job adding more details!

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We then added to our “Craft” chart of things we have noticed about Angela Johnson’s writing. I recently received a new magnetic dry erase board for my room and I am putting it to good use! Now my students can see this chart clearly and will hopefully be reminded to use some of Angela Johnson’s writing techniques in their own writing.

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As a side note, I have had a lot of coauthoring and co-illustrating going on in my room lately. Two of my boys came up to me one day and asked if they could write a book together and I was like OF COURSE! Since then, I have had students building writing partnerships. I have loved watching them during Daily 5 work together to write and illustrate a book. Here are a few examples of their work.

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I just cannot say enough how much I LOVE teaching the unit Authors as Mentors by Lucy Calkins and Amanda Hartman!


One thought on “It’s All in the Details

  1. Penny,
    This week from Katie Wood Ray in, About the Authors Writing Workshop for our Youngest Writers, I am reading about how students can learn that all stories came from an authors idea. I am planning on doing a lesson like yours next week to examine how a story can come from a small or large event or something that a person wants to remember. I think the example of writing about the tornado drill was a good one. I do not know where your students go, but mine get to hang out in a bathroom, so it is always entertaining. Also, every time I read your posts I am intrigued by your humor and thoughtfulness in your lessons. Keep up the good work!


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