Each day, I begin my ELA class with Reading Time. This is a time for students to access a range of texts. I use this time to conference with students, collect data on class patterns and trends with independent reading and to provide individualized support.
Students need time to write and the more time I can give them the better. I do this because they need as much assistance as possible in the process. If they are working towards a narrative I help them push their writing along as needed. We will continue the writing from the previous day. Since it's been a full day since I saw them, many students will be at complete different parts of the process so I will tailor my instruction to what that student needs. I did not always give students so much class time to write as I thought it wasn't the best use of instructional time. However, I learned quickly that I was wrong. Giving students class time is the best use of time as I can differentiate instruction for each student and it gives them time to write, since many of them will just rush to complete the work at home.
Some students talk about their narratives some more with me. I ask questions relating to the big ideas and details of the narrative. This will help them to think about what they need to include in their writing. Sometimes, I jot down notes as they are talking. I hand them these notes so they can go back and write. Pulling these ideas out of their narratives helps them make sense of it more.
Other students have a complete draft already done. I encourage them to try a new draft and there a few ways this can be done. The first is to pick a new topic. Some students are hesitant to do so but it gives them another piece of writing to compare their original to. This allows them to evaluate their writing in a different way which helps their thinking skills. Other students are able to approach their narrative from a different perspective. We look at powerful lines in their writing and see if they can start from there. We also compare beginnings from other novels and see how we can try to do the same.
Then there are those students who are writing and have an idea but don't know where it's going. I pause them for a moment and ask them about their big idea. One of the narrative qualities we discussed when reading narratives was the theme or the so-what of the piece. I ask them what they are trying to get across. We work together to try and figure out what the piece could really be about. Once we get there, then we talk about the details necessary to complete the draft.
Throughout the lesson, I think of the qualities of narrative writing, mainly description and story, which are the two most prevalent areas that my students need to focus on. Since these are just the first drafts, I am looking for students to just complete the story. I am not worried about assessment yet. I remind all students that they need a completed draft for tomorrow since we will begin to conference and share these narratives with group members.