Once our students begin writing, they want to write and write and write and write. The problem is that they tend to write without thinking through their structure and/or conventions.
After my students realize they can sound things out and actually write them, they are hooked on writing; however, they tend to forget the staples for writing sometimes! Students are often quick to script their ideas while forgetting capitalization, punctuation and re-reading skills! I HATE THAT!
So, this exercise helps my students THINK their way through writing well every day. With this short practice, students are able to see and talk through the mistakes they often make and they are really encouraged to pay attention to these small missing features in their writing!
This short, simple exercise helps students to focus on things such as: capital and lower-case letters, punctuation, spacing between words and declarative or interrogative sentences.
With 5 minutes a day, I have been able to really push my students to THINK through everything they read and write with an editor's brain!
What do I need? A large dry-erase board (with 3 different colored markers). That's it!
Every morning, when I begin my morning carpet time (oral language block), I start with a conversation based on our Morning Message. My Morning Message isn't made to be cutesy or anything like that; My Morning Message helps students make meaning out of what they are reading. I do this by creating a MYSTERY!
(This is what excites the students- I tell them it's a mystery!)
I write my message on the board, in black, with many mistakes and errors. Then, I tally how many things need to be corrected at the bottom of the board. (Look! Cross-Curricular connection with math!) I have the students begin by counting the errors. After that, I read to them my crazy, mistake-filled sentence(s). Then, I have students attempt to correct the errors and mistakes, marking off one tally at a time. When I fix a mistake, I use another color and just write it over what is already written (that way they can see the changes).
*This lesson is perfect to remind my students that it is alright to make mistakes. "Mistakes are helpful as long as we notice them and see how to fix them!"
My rules for this exercise are easy:
1- Track the print as I read the message.
2- Think before you raise your hand to fix something.
3- Fix only one thing.
4- Tell me WHY I need to fix something.
My students participate in this practice every day. I go over the sentence first as they track the print along with me. Then, we count the tallies (number of errors) together. Next, I begin calling on people to make changes. I call on people who have their hands raised, as well as those who do not (I always make it so some errors are easier to see for those who may be nervous to raise their hand). Once all of the errors have been fixed, I have the students chorally read the sentence with me. Then, we focus on one small task to extend the Morning Message (such as reviewing decodable words, spelling sight words, etc.). When we are done, I leave the fixed message up for part of the day- my students really like to go back and re-read it and see their fixes!
Here is a short and simple example:
I might write:
i se mi Friend sarah oVer ther?
We would count my tallies-
They would correct it:
i(I) se(see) mi(my) Friend(friend) sarah(Sarah) oVer(over) ther(there) ?(.)
As the students made corrections, I would expect them to explain their corrections like this:
"I needs to be capitalized. I by itself is always capitalized and/or it is the first letter in a sentence."
"SEE is spelled s-e-e. You need another e."
"MY needs to be changed. Take off the i and make it a y. My is spelled m-y."
"Friend doesn't need to be capitalized. Friend is not a proper noun or special name."
"Sarah needs to be capitalized. Sarah is a name and all names are capitalized."
"Over needs to have a lower-case v and not a capital V. We don't use capital letters in the middle of words."
"There needs to have an e on the end. There is spelled t-h-e-r-e."
"The question mark needs to be changed to a period. You aren't asking here, you are telling."
We then go back and re-read this sentence, with the fixes written on top of the errors. Then, I ask one or two students to come up and extend the activity- I have them look for certain focus letters or sight words, find chunks or blends, etc. Finally, I leave this up for at least some of the day and encourage them to re-read it.
Here is a video of our step 1 Morning Message model, as well as a video of our step 2 Morning Message model that would come later in the year! I also have included some of my Morning Message extension ideas.
Throughout the year, I change some of the aspects of Morning Message to make it more interesting. Since we do this every day, I try to change it up.
I will begin with something like this simple morning message that my students corrected.
But, sometimes I like to use color words and number words.
I also like to use words like to, too and two in the same sentence and have them mixed up.
Every once in a while, I don't write anything- I have my students sound out words for me.
Sometimes, I like to use alliteration or rhyming and have them find the pattern.
Later in the year, I have two sentences and have students take the middle period out and use a connecting word. Also, I like to have more than one sentence and have increase to 15-25 mistakes.
This activity is really fun, quick and engaging. Students will strive to notice MY mistakes and fix my errors. They enjoy it each and every day and it's a staple of my schedule. After all, there is no other part of my day that can cover so many skills in such a brief time. By the end, we have covered capitals, lower case letters, sight words, punctuation, spacing, and words that tell or ask, etc. This activity is an easy way to boost those writing skills and have fun at the same time!