The final day of the week is reading log collection. I take this time in class to make contact with each student at the end of the week, check in on page totals and reading progress, and verify who has completed their weekly homework. This is important because it creates consistency. If students know that I will be coming to check in with them personally each week, they are more likely to be consistent in turning in their homework. There is a give and take; a shared accountability. I don't have a homework turn in bin. On Fridays, I collect each log myself, instead of allowing kids to drop work in a faceless bin. Students know that if they don't have their work, they'll have to look me in the eye and tell me. I've noticed since I've adopted this model, work completion has improved.
As we look over their reading logs, I begin to grade them, and students and I conference about their novels and I ask them about their reading goals. Fridays are a day I allow students to use our school library. While I am circulating, students should be silently reading.
I make a list of who has not completed their homework and send a mass email to those parents before I leave work on Friday. It is a fast way to hold students accountable and inform parents if their children have been keeping up. It doesn't take long, seeing as it is a mass email, and it is also a great way to cover your own tracks. This mass email also serves as a formal invitation to study hall. My study hall is on Thursday mornings before school.
If I have questions about student responses, I make sure to make contact with students before the weekend.
After independent reading is finished, I explain the narrative assignment. I reiterate that we have spent a few weeks reading and studying traits of a memoir in preparation for today. Now it is time for students to write their own narratives. For this writing portion of the unit, urge kids to search for seed ideas in their composition notebooks. We have many stories that we've started and I always advise they start with something that they've already begun. Why reinvent the wheel? Of course many will request to start fresh; I always let them.
For the first time, I decided to allow students more creative freedom with their narratives this year. I encourage students to exaggerate their narratives. As long as they are realistic, I decided to give students creative freedom to stretch the truth. I did this for a couple of reasons. For one, I noticed in years past many were doing this anyway. Also, it takes the pressure off the students who just "cannot remember exactly what happened!" There are certain kids who want to tell the whole truth; they almost feel like an exaggerated moment or made up dialogue is a lie. This tiny bit of freedom takes the pressure off.
I model writing a narrative outline. I explain that their narratives should have well developed characters and one main conflict that carries through the story. This can be limiting for some students because they may not have any ideas of a problem. Again, this is where the creative licensing comes in. I also explain that there must be a clear beginning, middle, and end. We have not yet done a formal lesson on plot structure, so I prep them with the basic understanding of beginning, middle, and end.
I've attached two blank outlines. I have used both. One has an extra scaffold by stating "the way I will add suspense," which further builds students' understanding of what makes the middle.
At the end, I give students time to begin their own outlines. I leave my own sample on the board. For me, outlines can be restricting, and often times I vocalize this to the students. Outlines aren't for everyone and you certainly don't have to adhere to them once you're off and writing. However, some kids thrive on this extra scaffold. I often say they can be very bare bones, especially if the thought of an outline can feel constricting. Mostly because I can relate.
I've noticed that the kids that need to use an outline, fill them to the brim. Almost as if they are writing their story on the actual graphic organizer. I used to be discouraged by this and would try to hit home the fact that there were merely outlines, note sheets. However, now I believe that it is okay for struggling writers to do their extensive pre-writing on their outlines. Maybe they need this first step. I sort of embrace this as part of their process. Once they get used to note-taking and watching me model what an outline could look like (filled with questions and sentence starters), they they'll grow to be more comfortable with shorthand, outline writing.