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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Starting the Year off the Write Way! Day 2

As I mentioned yesterday I have been inspired while reading Jennifer Jacobson's book about writing No More I'm Done to share 10 writing lessons in 10 days. Yesterday I shared a prewriting lesson about generating topics that I have used before. Today I'm going to share another prewriting lesson, but this is a new one. Jennifer Jacobson recommends several books, many of which I don't have, so I have been looking at the books I do have to see which I can use for mentor texts.  There's a series of books about a Chinese American called Ruby Lu by Lenore Look. I found today's lesson in the book Ruby Lu, Brave and True.

The first chapter of the book is called "The Best Things About 20th Avenue South" and Ruby describes several things she likes: her house, the rain, her school, her wallet, etc. To start the lesson I would share three paragraphs of her likes. I have a page to download which you could use with a document camera or on the overhead.

After looking at the mentor paragraphs and discussing the questions about each (What do we learn about the character? What do we notice about the writing?), we would make lists of things we like using the I do, We do, You do method. First, I would make a list on the board of the things I like. Then we would brainstorm things we like about our city. Then I would ask the kids to make a list of all the things they like (and tell them they may include anything from my list or the list on the board). For our sharing time that day I would ask each student to pick one thing on their list to share with a partner but to tell their partner at least three reasons why they it is on their list (which will prepare them for Day 2). 

I would spend a second day reviewing the mentor paragraphs, but on this day I would focus on the details the author used to describe her likes (I love the description of the rain and the way the author sneaks in the fact that Ruby wanted a dog instead of a baby brother). I would explain that if the author simply told us Ruby likes rain, her school, and her brother we wouldn't know very much about the character. It's about the details! Then I would introduce a web, a prewriting graphic organizer. I don't give copies of writing organizers because I think the kids should make them. One of the main points in Jennifer Jacobson's book is not to create dependent writers - kids who depend on the teacher to provide the prompt. Instead kids should be generating their own topics and, I believe, their own organizers. So I draw a web on the board and go back to my list from the previous day. I think aloud about all my likes finding one that stands out. Once I pick it I put that idea in the middle of my web and then start brainstorming reasons why I like it. When I'm done we do the same thing with our list of what we like about our city. We find one like (maybe the zoo) and then brainstorm and add to the web what it is about the zoo we like. Then the kids pick one thing and make a web. When they are done, I challenge them to start writing about their like. For sharing time I might ask a couple of kids who I have noticed have outstanding webs to share their webs with the document camera.


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