A Week of Firsts

I decided I wanted to take all that I have learned so far from Aimee Buckner´s book Nonfiction Notebooks: Strategies for Informational Writing and apply it in my 6th grade social studies class.

Monday– My 6th grade students walked in on Monday expecting to see the normal directions written on the board. They thought they would be reading articles and answer questions about some ancient civilization. This had become our weekly routine. I was bored with it and I know my students had to be as well. Even though change was welcomed, the unexpected change caused some students to act out. This class in particular thrives off of routine so I knew that this much change at once would cause some problems and boy was I right. I knew we would need more time for even the smallest of task as they got into the routine of what we were doing.

I began the class by explaining that we were going to be writing and that they would be choosing their subject. I explained that their topic needed to have some association to something we had previously learned about. I told them this is a type of review for the class, but also should inform the class of new information about their topic.

After our purpose was set, writing began with the pre-writing strategies ¨All about¨ and ¨Better Questions¨ Students took three minutes to write a list of topics the had learned about and was interested in learning more about.  They then discussed with a partner for two minutes narrowing their list down to their two favorite topics. I suggested that if they had chosen an entire civilization or another large topic they may want to narrow it down to a more specific topic. Once students had one or two topics, I gave them three more minutes to write down everything they knew about the topic. Lastly, the class took three more minutes to discuss with a partner everything they had written about their subject. Their partner listened for what information they were missing about the topic. They then developed questions that their partner could use as guidance during research.

Tuesday– Tuesday was  a pretty straight forward day. Students used the internet to research the answers to their questions.  The wrote their facts on sticky notes and put their sticky notes in their notebooks.

Wednesday– We started the class by looking over our sticky notes with a partner. They grouped their sticky notes into piles. Each pile represented a separate sub category. They then labeled these categories. Any sticky notes left over were decided to be irrelevant to what they were creating. After organizing notes into groups we decided in which order the information should be presented. The next step was deciding how to percent the information.

I explained to the students that I would be calling out a different format in which authors present information every three minutes. When I called out the format they would switch to writing about their topic in that format. We wrote in the following formats: Newspaper article,  poem, advice column, picture book, timeline, readers theater, etc… The class LOVED this activity. They loved it so much that I plan to use it by itself as a review of information.

They left class that day with the expectation that they would come to school tomorrow with a topic and a format in which they wanted to share about their topic.

Thursday– On Thursday students create an outline or proposal of what they planned to create.

Friday-Students wanted to create props, settings, books, etc… They didn´t seem to understand the need to create a rough draft. However, after much persuasion and explanations every student began to create rough drafts.

Stay turned next week for final presentations!


small moments make BIG ideas


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