A Writing Journey

     As with all journeys, they eventually come to an end. As I sit here typing, I am thinking about all the wonderful ideas I have learned about writing instruction in the pursuit of my Masters in Reading Education. Over this past semester, with the help of Dr. Buchholz and the numerous articles and books I have read, I have learned how to be a better teacher of writing. I have developed a passion for writer’s workshop, using units of study and bookmaking to raise the level of writing that occurs in my first-grade classroom. I have seen first-hand the power of bookmaking, allowing students to self-select topics, and explicit writing instruction. Students deserve a large chunk of time dedicated to writing each day. They should be allowed to find joy in making books and living the life of an author and illustrator. Students deserve a teacher who is present during the writing process to offer feedback in the form of praise, suggestions, or explicit instruction in an effort to raise their level of writing. It’s been a journey worth traveling.   

     As I say goodbye to this blog, I look ahead to the new school year with excitement and optimism. My plans are to incorporate a full writing workshop into my day which I was unable to do this semester. Instead, I was able to teach a unit of study by Lucy Calkins and Amanda Hartman titled Authors as Mentors. This was one of the highlights of the semester. If all their other units are as fabulous as this one, my future first-graders are in for a treat. I have another first-grade teacher who is on board for doing writer’s workshop in the upcoming school year and beyond. I am on a mission to start a writing revolution in my school. I plan on giving a workshop for the primary teachers to educate them on writer’s workshop and share my excitement about all I have learned. I will probably have to buy all the units myself, but that’s OK with me. It’s a small price to pay for knowing I’m doing what’s best for my students with regards to giving them the best writing instruction I can.

     Here is a link to my final paper. If there is a teacher out there who is not satisfied with his/her current writing instruction, I encourage you to read it. I hope you will feel a spark inside yourself for your own writing revolution. 

                                                        Let’s Start a Writing Revolution

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Many Moments Stories

My class has been venturing into new writing territory by shifting our focus from small moment stories to many moments stories. We first looked at Do Like Kyla by Angela Johnson and noticed how she wrote a story about a little sister copying everything her big sister, Kyla, did throughout the story. After reading the book to my first-graders, I asked what did they notice about how Angela Johnson wrote this book. They were very quick to pick up on the repeating words “I do like Kyla”, but there was some confusion about was it a small moment story or something else. Most of my students thought it was a small moment story so I used my necklace to show them the difference between a story written about one moment (one silver circle on my chain) compared to a story written about many moments (several silver circles on my chain) connected by repeating lines.

I preceded to read them another Johnson book titled Joshua by the Sea and we discussed how this story was not about Joshua just doing one thing as he did in Joshua’s Night Whispers. This story was different because it talked about different things he did at the beach all connected with the repeating lines of “I am Joshua”.  Over the next couple of days I read more many moment stories to my class to help them get a better idea of what a many moment story looked like. I read Cynthia Rylant’s When I Was Young in the Mountains and Judith Viorst’s Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. My students seemed to understand what a many moments story was, but no one was giving it a try with regards to using repeating lines to connect the moments.

This week, I decided to write my own many moments story to show my students how to take many moments and connect them with repeating lines. I cheated by using images from Google instead of drawing my own illustrations. Below is my story I titled My Silly Brother.

p. 1 In the morning at breakfast, my little brother blows bubbles in his milk. He is so silly.

p. 2 My mom tells him to go get dressed and when he comes back, he’s wearing his shirt inside out. He is so silly.

p. 3 In the car, he tries to put the seat belt on while upside down. He is so silly.

p. 4 On the way to daycare, he sings the alphabet song with a robot voice. He is so silly.

p. 5 I stay in the car while dad walks him into daycare. I watch him walk like a monkey as he holds dad’s hand. He is so silly.

P. 6 In the afternoon, we go to pick up my little brother from daycare. He comes out wearing his book bag backwards. He is so silly.

p. 7 On the way home, we stop to get popsicles. He asks for my stick and puts both of them up his nose. He is so silly.

p. 8 Before dinner when no one is looking, my little brother puts his old baby clothes on our puppy. He is so silly.

p. 9 When getting ready for bed, he brushes his teeth with his finger. He is so silly, but I love him.

Once again this week I encouraged my students to try to use repeating words to connect many moments together in a story. I finally had one student to experiment with this new type of writing! It might not blow your socks off, but I was very proud of him to actually try and he was so proud of himself when he was reading his book to the class. His classmates were very quick to see that he repeated the word “look” throughout his story. I made a big deal out of his story so I hope to see more of my first-graders writing many moments stories in the future.

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Front Cover ~ The Time Me and Lance and Levi Lost the Super Bowl

p. 1 I was going to our super bowl. It is in Elkin. Look.

p. 2 illustration of his car going down the mountain

p. 3. I got there. Look.

p. 4 illustration of the football field

p. 5 Now we played. Look. Touchdown Elkin.

p. 6 illustration of football field and scoreboard 6 to 0

p. 7 We lost to Elkin. Look.

p. 8 illustration of the scoreboard  Trojans 6 Elkin 14

Back Cover ~ They win the trophies. The End.

Side note: This is a true story. The first and second grade team went all season undefeated only to lose in the super bowl. I was there. It was very sad.

Ted ~ Master of Wordless Picture Books

One of the reasons I was drawn to Writer’s Workshop was the ability to confer while students are in the process of writing. The most powerful teaching occurs when the teacher pulls up a chair beside a student and teaches one thing during that moment to help lift the student’s level of writing. I really wanted to do a full blown writer’s workshop this semester because I have one particular student who could really use my help. Sadly I just couldn’t make it happen. I teach my mini-lesson and my students go off to Daily 5 choosing a station of their choice. I go to my teacher table and begin guided reading groups.

Ted is a student I taught last year in kindergarten and was identified as learning disabled. By the end of the year he knew all the Letterlanders names, sounds and action tricks, but if I pointed to the letter q, he could not tell me it was a q. I would sit with him as he wrote a sentence. I would stretch out each word, ask him what sound he heard and ask him which Letterlander made that sound. If he knew the sound, he would look at the Letterland train to see how to make that letter. As the year progressed, he picked up some sight words such as like, my, go, we and the. Ted was never able to write a sentence independently.

Last year I had the luxury of a full time teacher assistant, so I had help to keep things running in the room if I sat down to help Ted write his sentence which could take awhile. I do not have a full time TA this year. I share her with three other first grade classrooms. When she comes into my room, I have her read with Ted. He reads three old books, retires the oldest to his book box, and a new book is introduced each day. After this is completed, it’s time for her to move on to the next first grade class.

Ted’s EC teacher has helped him some with writing, but she is also giving him extra Letterland instruction as well as math. So Ted has been left to fend for himself while at the Work on Writing station. This really makes me feel like a lousy teacher. He really didn’t like going to that station and who can blame him?

Things started changing when by chance I folded some copier paper and stapled them together. I showed them to my students and told them they could make a book. I explained they could write a story about anything they wanted to. I remember taking Ted aside and telling him he could just draw pictures to tell a story. He was hesitant at first, but once he saw other students taking a blank book and making stories of their own, he decided to give it a try. This is when he really took off with making wordless picture books.

He is a wonderful illustrator and has a fantastic imagination. Ted has written books about Santa, football, Batman, soldiers, policemen, hunting trips, going to California to be in a NASCAR race and school just to name a few. He even wrote our first scary story about a killer clown! My students and I cheer him on each time he completes a book and “reads” it to the class. He puts in under the document camera so we can all see his detailed illustrations.

Ted wants to go the Work on Writing station each day now and often wants to stay there during the next rotation so he can continue working on his book, which I absolutely let him do. He is learning from his classmates by using speech like bubbles. Instead of dialogue, he writes the person’s name. He used to put illustrations only on the front cover and now he writes his name. He also copies “written” and “illustrated by” from another student’s book on his front cover.

I recently asked my class before sending them off to Daily 5 if there was someone willing to write what Ted wanted to say on each page in a book he was starting today. I immediately had several hands shoot up in the air and Ted got to choose who he wanted to work with. I just about cried. From the beginning of school, I have tried to create a classroom community or family where we help each other and practice kindness. To see the fruits of my labor in that moment did my heart some good.

Below are some examples of Ted’s work that I have been saving for awhile. I hope you see what I see when I look at his books. I see a wonderful illustrator who puts lots of details in his pictures. I see someone with a vivid imagination. I see someone who knows that a story has a beginning, middle and end. I see someone who can write stories about many topics. I see someone who enjoys making books.

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unnamed (57) Another Santa Story

unnamed-58.jpg Football Story

unnamed (59) Batman Story

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unnamed-62.jpg Hunting Story

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unnamed-65.jpg Killer Clown Story

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page 1 ~ Today is a big football game.

page 2 ~ Carolina Panthers vs Starmount Rams. Look at the helmets…!

page 3 ~ Look at the score.

page 4 ~ There are two players fighting on the field.

page 5 ~ players holding trophies

page 6 ~We went to California to play another game and we won the game and we won gold and money…!

page 7 ~ players driving back with truck load of gold and dollar bills

page 8 ~ Super Bowl champs – Panthers – every game won

I was doing progress monitoring last week and finished up on Friday. I had some time so I called Ted over to my teacher table to see what he was working on. He showed me the paper below and I asked him what he would like to write. I helped him sound out the following and he knew the sounds with the exception of -ing: Us catching Joker

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On the back, he wanted to write bat cave and jail so I sounded those words out and he wrote what you see. I did ask him who was making Mr. A appear and he added the magic e. Letterland is really helping him!

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I know this was a really long post, but I wanted to celebrate Ted. His confidence has really grown and he sees himself as an author and illustrator. That is worth its weight in gold.

 

 

 

What Blogging Has Done For Me

I have found blogging to be rewarding professionally and personally. One reason is that it has given me a voice in the digital world. Educators need a platform to talk about issues in education that matter to them. Blogging is a perfect outlet for educators to have their voices heard. A second reason is I love being able to give others a peek inside my room with regards to teaching writing. I hope other teachers can get ideas from my blogs that they would like to try in their own classrooms. I know that is one reason why I read teacher blogs. I am always on the hunt for ideas and best teacher practices. I have found so many of them by reading blogs written by teachers all over the United States.

A third reason is I love highlighting my students’ work. My blogs are full of examples of my first-grader’s writing. I want them to shine, not me. My students work so hard each day and they have been bitten by the writing bug! They want to stay at the Work on Writing station of Daily 5 instead of moving on to a new station. I like being able to show off their writing to others all around the country. A fourth reason is I hope other teachers can relate to me. I’m new at blogging and definitely don’t have all the answers, but I hope they can see that I am a hardworking teacher who is willing to try new things.

A fifth reason is I can share my excitement for a writing approach that I absolutely love! Blogging gives me a way to share with other teachers and administrators the wonderful unit of study by Lucy Calkins and Amanda Hartman I have been using in my first-grade classroom. I’ve been looking for a writing program that would elevate the level of my teaching as well as the level of writing of my students. I finally found it and want to shout it to the world and to anyone who is willing to listen. My first-graders have enjoyed studying Angela Johnson’s books looking for crafting techniques they can use in their own writing. It is such a wonderful feeling when your students bring a piece of writing to you and you can see evidence of them trying to use what they learned by studying an author’s book. Using Mentors as Authors has been the best thing I have ever tried with regards to writing instruction. Diving Into a Unit of Study!

It’s All in the Details

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.

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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!

Growing Stories in Your Mind

Early in the unit Authors As Mentors, I presented a minilesson about how authors like Angela Johnson grow stories from small moments. It talks about how authors don’t sit down and write a book automatically after getting an idea. I used my small moment “card in glove compartment” to show how I could grow a story in my mind first before writing it down on paper. I used a blank book from the Work on Writing station of Daily 5 and touched each page as I told the story out loud to my class. I told my class that authors plan how the story will go before actually writing a book. I remember getting some “Ohs” on that comment. It was like little light bulbs going off at the same time. I could just see “I didn’t know that!” in their thought bubbles over their heads.

I then folded a piece of copier paper twice to make four equal sections and labeled the sections 1 – 8. I explained to my class that planning how your story will go is an important step for an author. Writing it out in this manner is another way to help you grow your story and if you make a mistake, it’s OK because this is not your published book. With their help remembering how my story went, I wrote it all down putting the events in order from 1 to 7. I told them they may not have to use all 8 sections of the paper. The most important thing was for them to give themselves time to grow their stories and I did not expect them to write a book all in one week.

Since then I have had several students taking the time to grow their stories into a published book. I wanted to share a few with you this week. Enjoy!

P.S. We have been talking about books having a title page, dedication page and the fact that authors do not put The End on the back of their books. They now realize that the illustrator usually has artwork on the back.

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page 1 – I Go to the Store with Granny  page 2 – To my granny who is the best.  page 3 – One day I went to the store with my granny.  page 4 – It was fun. I got stuff to make a smoothie. And we went to Food Lion.  page 5 – Then we went home to make our smoothie. page 6 – I “drinked” all of mine. I got a brain freeze. page 7 – Then my granny “spended” the night with me. We watched TV. page 8 – I had so much fun with my granny. page 9 – I love my granny.  page 10 – Love

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page 1 – A Day at P.E. page 2 – I dedicate this book to mom and dad. page 3 – One day in P.E.I almost got run into.  page 4 – But then (I) went around them and felt good.  page 5 – And we did another round of tag. We had a great time. page 6 – The End

 

The dot, dot, dot

My students have been diligently writing in their little notebook necklaces. They take them home and wear them around school. I have one student in particular who seems to really enjoy the idea of writing notes for small moment stories. Marty came up to me during lunch and read all his notes so far. I wanted to highlight him this week because normally he is a reluctant writer. It’s all about just getting the words down on paper!

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I am bad at breaking paper (ripping out pages in our math book). Mrs. Evans changed our desks. Daily 5 is fun. Marlene fake cried. Lance was sick. I was worried. I was late for lunch.

Now to the dot, dot, dot. In this minilesson, we took a closer look at Angela Johnson’s book, Joshua’s Night Whispers, in an attempt to see what exactly she does to write a good story. I had them watch a video of the book on YouTube using my smart board so the words would be big enough for everyone to see. After the video ended, I had them get a partner and talk about what exactly they noticed about her words. I typed their responses on the smart board as they spoke for the class to see.

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I asked my students to pick just one that some of them had not noticed before or had never seen before. Everyone said in unison, “The dots!” I told them I was going to make a chart to keep track of what we notice as we study her books. I added that it is a special chart called a craft chart and the word craft is a used to describe a technique a writer uses in their writing. As I read each section, they supplied the answers.

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With the section “Why is she doing this?”, I read the book aloud and in a manner they they could hear the suspense so they picked up on the meaning of the dots quickly. With the section “Other Books?”, I had already noticed Gus using ellipses in a book he was writing. I asked him to go get his book. Using my document camera, I projected it on my smart board and read it aloud. When I got to the part where he used ellipses, I stopped and asked if they could hear how the dots created suspense. They all said yes and wanted me to turn the page! It was sort of anticlimactic as you can see below, but he did use them correctly and I was very impressed.

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Front Cover ~ The Bunk Bed Page 1 ~ It was night time. I was on the top bunk. Page 2 ~ The top mattress was about to fall!  Page 3 ~ I didn’t call for help. Page 4 ~ So the next day…  Page 5 ~ I told mom  Page 6 ~ She sold the bunk-bed Page 7 ~ We got a new bed. Page 8 ~ I got a Batman bed  Maddy got a owl bed.

The next day, I told my students that I was going to show them how to use the dot, dot, dot technique with my own small moment story. The other day, I wrote the words “card in glove compartment” on my little piece of paper to remind me of the time I forgot my wedding anniversary.  I showed them my story on the smart board and read it to them. I then asked my class to listen to the story one more time and listen for a good place to put the dot, dot, dot. I asked them to listen for a place where something might be about to happen or a place where you would want to turn the page to find out what happens. You can see below where they told me to put the dot, dot, dot. I thought they did a wonderful job. It was about this time that one student started chanting “the dot, dot, dot” over and over so of course everyone joined in. It was funny!

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I told my students when they see something another author does that they admire, then try to use it in your own writing too. I sent them off to Daily 5 and it wasn’t long before I was bombarded with the dot, dot, dot as you can see below.

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I even had two of my first-graders try out this new technique in their own writing. I was so proud!

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One day in P.E. I almost got hit…

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Then I went home    I went to bed then I closed my eyes…

I absolutely LOVE using Lucy Calkins and Amanda Hartman’s unit Authors As Mentors and the whole concept of writer’s workshop! What a wonderful approach to teaching writing.

Diving Into a Unit of Study!

Lately, I had been feeling that my minilessons were all over the place. My understanding of minilessons is they are driven by what the teacher sees as the needs of her students. Even though the ideas I was teaching were worthwhile, I need more structure and a clearer path to follow, so I was thrilled to get one of Lucy Calkins’ units titled Authors As Mentors. It has been a game changer in my writing instruction. I feel like I finally found the end of the rainbow ~ a pot of golden writing goodies!

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The first author my class is studying in Angela Johnson. I checked out all her books in our school library and used them to introduce the unit to my first-graders. They were very excited to begin this unit of study after I told them she writes stories just like they do and they were going to learn how to be better writers by studying her books. The first minilesson teaches how she writes books about small moments. I had to backtrack by explaining the difference between big ideas (watermelon stories) and small moments (watermelon seed stories) which had been introduced in a previous unit. I gave several examples such as the beach vs. finding a jellyfish on the beach. I read the book Joshua’s Night Whispers and we talked about how Johnson took a big idea (son) and zoomed in to a small moment (when he got out of bed during the night).

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I asked my students how would writers remember all the ideas that they have for books. One student said, “They would have to have a good memory.” I laughed and agreed. Another student said, “I think they would have to write their ideas down.” BINGO! I asked everyone to think of a small moment that has happened to themselves or someone they know that would be a good idea for a story. I explained it could be something that happened at P.E., on the bus, in our classroom, on a trip, or at home. After letting everyone think for a few moments, I told them I had an idea. Using my document camera, I wrote the words “card in glove compartment” on a little piece of paper. I explained to my class that I wasn’t writing the whole story on my paper, just a few words to help me remember my idea.

I then handed out little pieces of paper for them to go write down a few words to help them remember the small moment story they wanted to write. I reminded them to be like Angela Johnson and zoom in on a small moment. I was very impressed that they all went right to work and came up with some very good ideas for a small moment story.

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I used the document camera and everyone got to share what their small moment story was going to be about. I even shared that my story about a time I forgot my wedding anniversary because I was so excited to be going to Disney World! I explained to my class that many writers keep notebooks to write down all their ideas for books and we were going to make our very own little notebooks! But since I didn’t have the materials ready, I said they would have to wait until tomorrow. You should have seen their little deflated faces.

The next day we did indeed make our little notebook necklaces. They had so much FUN making them! The excitement I saw on their faces is something I want to see each day. My first-graders were so engaged and excited about writing! Their minds were blown when I told them they were going to wear them at school to jot down any ideas for small moment stories. I even gave them a golf pencil. I was asked if they could take them home which I said was fine, but if they lost it, they wouldn’t be getting a new one.

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We went to lunch after making our little notebooks and guess what I saw at the lunch table?!?! My students were writing  ideas!!!!

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Dipping My Toes Into Minilessons

I have continued to confer with students and offer feedback to improve their writing. I have also continued to give them time to share their writing. This week I started letting them share after snack which was an idea I stole from another teacher. (Thanks Michelle!) This time of day is an excellent way to wind down our day together. They really enjoy sitting in my teacher chair and reading their writing to the class. I hope they feel a sense of pride sitting in the “Author’s Chair”. We always clap for each other and I tell them what wonderful writers and illustrators they have become since the beginning of the year.

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Me and Lance are best friends. We like to play football. We take turns being quarterback.

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I have been reading About the Authors – Writing Workshop with Our Youngest Writers by Katie Wood Ray with Lisa B. Cleaveland. This book contains lots of ideas for minilessons, but the authors stress that a lot of minilessons are taught based on the needs of the students. Ideas for minilessons come from what the teacher sees in the students’ daily writing. This is what I did this week. I noticed what my students were doing (or not doing) in their writing and taught minilessons this week. One was on making sure they write the date on their work. Another was remembering to use capitals and periods. Still another was making sure to use spaces between words.

I was presented a chance to teach a minilesson about where authors get their ideas. Bob wrote a story titled Fires. It was about a topic that was disturbing. Some teachers might not have allowed him to share it with the class, but I did.

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  • page 1: Fires    title page
  • page 2: fire  low fire burning   kids
  • page 3: fire    big fire
  • page 4:   Four kids are dying cause of the big fire.
  • page 5:   The mom and dad lived in the fire. They wanted their kids to die. I feel sorry for them.
  • page 6: The End

As he was reading his book to the class, I heard comments such as “Did that really happen?”, “That’s awful!”, “I just about cried.” and “Why did you write that?”. I stepped in and told my first-graders that writers get their ideas from many places. Writers may write about something that happened in their daily lives, a special memory, family, friends, a special event, a special place, pets, a historical moment, other books or just from sitting at a park and watching people. I explained that Bob got his idea from a show he watched on t.v. I went on to say that not every book has a happy ending. Some writers may choose to write a sad story. I talked with my students about the idea that stories can be silly, happy, scary, funny, sad, fiction or non-fiction. It was up to the writer as to what kind of story he or she wanted to write. They nodded in agreement then proceeded to discuss with someone beside them the type of writing they like to write. I will be curious to see if I have any more sad stories written in the near future. Since it was at the end of the day, I had Bob leave his book so we could talk about fixing capitals at the beginning of sentences, periods at the end of sentences and possible spelling errors.

After a phone call to his parents to confirm what Bob told me, he did indeed get his idea from a show he watched with his mom called Snapped. This is a true-crime reality series. What he saw and heard on this show had a lasting impact on him and he was compelled to write this book. It was a topic that mattered to him and I would never want to make him feel that his ideas are not worthy to be put into a book.

 

When things go wrong, go to plan B

I had high hopes of launching writer’s workshop in my first-grade classroom this semester, but I am now on to plan B. Someone told me I was a real teacher working with real kids and I might need to just take one small step instead of one giant leap. I took my small step this week by having writing conferences with some of my students. I will share one interaction that took place.

Pete chose to write about his favorite thing about winter using a writing prompt sheet I downloaded for free at http://www.thisreadingmama.com. I know! Writing prompts are a big no-no in writer’s workshop, but I just put it there in case they needed it. When he came over to me, I noticed the only period he had was at the very end, so we worked on conventions. I had him to point and reread what he wrote. I asked him to listen and stop his finger where he thought a period might need to be. His finger just kept on going until he got to the end of his writing. So I pointed and read stopping at appropriate places. We had a discussion about the need for a period at the end of a thought and he added the periods (total of 3) to his writing.

I then noticed he had left out a comma and quotation marks when he spoke in the writing. I had him go get his book box. I selected one that had dialogue and asked him if he had ever noticed when someone spoke in the book, there was a comma after said followed by quotation marks. He told me he had noticed them, but forgot what they were for. Pete added the comma and quotation marks to his writing. The comma may have been a stretch to teach to a first-grader, but I felt he definitely needed to know about quotation marks.

I also noticed that he did not capitalize the first letter of his snowman’s name. He smiled and told me he just forgot. After he fixed that, his writing was perfect. He wrote the entire piece by himself spelling every word after the prompt correctly. As you can see in the picture, he is a perfectionist.  I taught Pete last year in kindergarten. I know I taught him how to use a period and capitalize names. I wonder since I am not present during their writing time, if this is a side effect. I dare say it is. 

Although I did not have to correct any spelling mistakes, I wonder how other teachers feel about correcting spelling on their students’ finished writing. Is writing the correct spelling above or below the misspelled word a good thing or a bad thing?

conference

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