I have found that most children have not had many opportunities before fourth grade to develop their own thoughts on what to write. This lesson is to help those students come up with ideas on different papers they can write.
First, we just have a discussion on the things that make them special and unique. We all have things we like to do, read, and play. Students can really get carried away with their sharing so I try to only let a few share on each piece. Next we talk about trips we have taken, places we have gone, and people we have visited. I then tell them that these events can be written into a personal story or narrative about themselves. I draw a heart on a small white board, or you could use chart paper, to put inside all of the things that are about me and that I can write to share.
Next, I draw a circle. The circle is our brain and all the things I want to learn about or things I want to know more. I put these into my circle. These are things that I could research and then write a report on.
Last we talk about the outside space being for everything else. This might be writing a letter to me, the principal, or a family member. Some fun letters that might want to write might include: a new App for the iPads and explain why it would be good for us at school; new equipment for the playground and why we should buy it; a field trip that we could take and how it could be informational.
To make the model I create my own brainstorm that would be things that I could write about. I start with a heart and fill in things that I could write about me and my life. Next is drawing the circle and I fill it in with what interests me and what I could research. On the outside I include a letter I need to write to our principal on something I might want to share with other teachers.
I have included the brainstorm I modeled for my class to give you an idea of what this model could look like.
For the next piece, I ask them to take out a piece of paper if they want to keep it for reference in their working folder. (A working folder is where they keep work that is not finished and is a way to keep important papers safe.)
They can also use their white board and create their own brainstorm. I walk around and watch them write down their ideas. I help prompt them when they seem stuck. Once they get going they can come up with lots of ideas.
Once students have their thoughts down I ask them to label a few of their favorites. I want them to decide on what form their writing should take. Do they write it like a story, a letter, a how to paper with materials and directions, or research paper. We practice a few by having a couple of kids share so they can see how, as a class, we might decide what writing form would be the best.
I then allow them time to think and choose. They can ask questions as I walk around for help, or I monitor what they are writing and encourage other forms of writing.