For starters today, we will do a quick review of the slow motion strategy. I will ask them to turn to a shoulder partner and explain the slow motion technique.
I tell the students that we will be applying this strategy to their own writing but first we need to find the best part of the essay. We must find a part that deserves to be experienced frame by frame. This is so tough for 6th graders! You can expect all 32 of your students to want you to read their essay on the spot and tell them what part to use. Just keep encouraging them to think about it and seek advice from their partner.
Before actually applying this strategy, students will need the essay that they wrote for their pre-assessment.
I start by telling them that some of their topics are a little to big. Let's call these fat topics. Examples could be: your vacation to Florida, your basketball season, your day on the beach.
I want them to narrow these big topics down to skinny, more manageable topics.
I give them my example which is a rambling account of my entire 10 days in Texas over the summer. I make sure that there are several funny and exciting parts that I mention as I talk. Then, with the students, we ask these questions:
1. Is my topic too big?
2. Did I focus on one event or tell everything?'
3. Is my essay more like a snapshot or the whole album?
We agree that I showed the whole photo album, maybe two, and that I need to narrow down my topic. I ask them what they think the main event or most exciting/memorable part of my vacation might be, and they me several suggestions that would work.
Many students have gone from year to year writing personal narratives about large topics. The effect is a lot of information without much detail. This is a new experience for many of my students so it is uncomfortable at first. I feel that it helps them transition into more mature writers and can cross over into all genres of writing.
Now they spend a few quiet minutes rereading their narratives. All the while they are thinking:
1. Could my topic be too big?
2. Tell I tell about one thing or many things?
3. Did I show one picture or the whole photo album?
Ask these guiding questions:
1. What is the main event of your story?
2. What is the most exciting part?
3. What is the one single thing about this event that you will always remember?
I ask them to get an idea in their head.
Then, they will partner up with someone. They should read their partner's narrative as well while focusing on the same questions.
I will emphasize the importance of helping your partner make his or her writing better. If you tell them that it is fine the way it is, you are not being helpful! You must help your partner make changes!!! I love partner work in writing and also letting them talk through their ideas. This generates detail and helps them elaborate on the topic.
Have the partners discuss each other's papers and help determine one single, focused event that is the most exciting or main part of the story.
In their rough draft, this may be only 1 sentence, and that's just fine because we will be making it more detailed together.
At this point, I will model the way I want the students to organize this new main event. I will walk them through my revised story as I create my flow map.
Once both students have figured out the main event, they need to help each other create a new flee map focusing on just the main event.
They will try to break the event down into 3 sections. If they struggle to do this, I recommend using: Beginning, Middle, and End or Before, During, and After for the 3 boxes of the flee map. I have them write their skinny topic on the top of the flee map paper so I can buzz around and check to make sure all topics are narrow enough.
Once they have completed the 3 boxes, they can begin to add detail underneath. To generate details I ask them: What were you thinking? How did you feel? What did you see, hear, smell, taste, or touch? The idea is for students to put step by step detail into their flee map before they begin writing.
At the end of this lesson, we will discussstudents to discuss why it is important to have a small, manageable, and focused topic.
I will ask them to reflect on what was easy and difficult about this process and what they learned.
I think that it is very important for students to reflect on their own learning, so that they can be aware of their thinking. This process also helps students to take ownership of their knowledge.