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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Starting the Year off the Write Way!

This summer I've been rereading Jennifer Jacobson's No More I'm Done about Writers' Workshop. I've been using the workshop method for many years, but I'm always looking for ways to improve it. Her book has given me several new ideas. I love her ideas for revision. When kids add to a story they use "spider legs." Love it! She has lots of terrific ideas for mini-lessons too. I've decided to challenge myself to write up a mini-lesson (though my beginning of the year lessons are more maxi than mini!) everyday for 10 days to share on my blog. So here's my first one.

It's important to get kids thinking about good topics so I include a topic list in their writing folder (you can download mine below). I introduce the idea of topics by reading a book called The Very Last First Time by Jan Andrews (any book about an usual experience would work).
I explain to the kids that I bought the book while on vacation in northern Canada and was fascinated by the story (a little girl walks on the bottom of the frozen ocean gathering mussels for her first time alone). I tell them I even asked the bookstore owner if this happened and he said yes. After I read the story I ask the kids two important questions: "What did the author need to know in order to write this story?" and "Could I have written this story?" Now third graders, bless their little hearts, believe their teachers are capable of anything and they usually respond yes. But when we go back and review what the author needed to know to write the story they change their mind (though not all of them!). I tell them when I write I need to write about something I know about and even though I couldn't have written that story, there are many things I can write about!

This brings me to the topic of topics! I use the I do-we do-you do method so I start by brainstorming topics I can write about. I usually include a trip story, a pet story, a childhood memory (third graders love when I write about my childhood), and a person I know and love because these are ideas they can use. Then we brainstorm together ideas that most of our classmates can write about like the first day of school, describing our school or a former teacher, favorite thing to do at recess, etc. I record all their ideas on the board. For the you do part, I hand out a topic list and tell them they may use any ideas on the board and to think of some of their own ideas because their best writing starts with an idea they know about. 

(Download the topic lists by clicking on the picture above. I included two different topic ones - hope someone can use one or the other!)

At the end of workshop time, I ask those who want to to share a unique idea from their topic list. I encourage the kids to listen carefully and write down any ideas they might like to borrow.

Happy writing!


Lauren Blackmon said...

Thanks for sharing about your new book. I'm always looking for good reads to improve my classroom and give me ideas.

Tamara L. Chilver said...

Thanks for sharing Debbie! Happy blogging!

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