I have been working with my coach since starting the Master Teacher Project and lately we've really been talking about showcasing the rigor in my lessons. This has really been on my mind lately. Having said that, today's lesson is rigorous. The students are going to have to take all the information that they've recorded the last few days and use it to write their own stories and I am going to let them struggle through it. I'm in the same boat as a lot of you. I am trying to find my way in allowing students to struggle yet at the same time not give them the impression of "You're on your own you guys - good luck!" There has a to be a balance between stepping back and letting them take charge of their learning and offering just enough support so they don't throw in the towel. Slowly but surely I am finding that questioning strategies help me to take that back seat and help the students "over that hump" when they get stuck. So that is my focus for the lesson today.
Today we are addressing the standard W1.2 Write informative/explanatory texts in which they name a topic, supply some facts about the topic, and provide some sense of closure. I am such a proponent of using Thinking Maps when writing because it teaches students how to structure their writing. Before I started using Thinking Maps in the writing classroom I would have students whose writing would be all over the place. They might write, "Honey bees have six legs and four wings. There is one queen in the hive. They drink juice from flowers called nectar. They are the size of a jellybean." Students who write like this don't see structure in a text when they read, and need to be taught that when they write, their ideas need to be structured in a way so the whole piece makes sense.
As long as we are discussing structure, let's look a little deeper at the anchor standard for W.2 - CCRA.W.2 - Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content. As students get older and text becomes more complex, and our student's thought processes become more complex, they will need to write concisely. As we teach W1.2 the eventual goal is to get them to that anchor standard of CCRA.W.2 so there's no time like the present to get these kiddos to write with structure. Don't make life hard on yourself. Teach by using a flow map!
The students will need their tree maps and circle maps from yesterday. They will also need their flow map papers to write their stories today.
A perfect way to explain what is expected of your students is to give them a rubric. I passed out a rubric that I was going to evaluate their work against to each of my students. This is a rubric that was written up by someone in my district and I am required to use it. I have put it in the resource section if you would like to use it as well. I explained each of the components that I would be looking for in their writing. We didn't focus on adjectives in this lesson but I've taught several lessons on adjectives and I want to see what my students can do. The text also has adjectives in it so I want to see if my students thought those adjectives were important enough to include on their tree maps, and henceforth their writing. By giving the students the rubric first, they could keep referring back to it as they wrote, making sure they included all the different components.
I pulled out my Smartboard lesson and we reviewed our introductory and concluding sentences. I explained that they didn't have to write their sentences exactly like the examples, they were just to give them some ideas. My students have seen the flow map before in some other writing projects we've done. I quickly explained how we were going to follow the same structure as the the story we analyzed, explaining in particular that the large boxes are for writing their main ideas of each section and then the smaller "tell me more " boxes are where they write their detail sentences. I also pointed out how just like the writing we analyzed the 2nd set of boxes had the details first and the main idea came last. I explained the flow map and didn't model anything. I wanted my students to be in total control of what they were writing.
Then I let the students use their flow maps and circle maps to get to work.
I brought my strugglers back to the reading table. I knew I would have to support them more. I wanted them all in one space because I could access and help them all quickly if they were in the same area.
I tried circulating between my strugglers and the rest of the class. I tried to keep quiet as much as I could (believe me this was hard - I'm a talker). If students were stuck I tried to use my questioning strategies to help lead them to their own understanding. I knew though that the more I opened my mouth the lesson became more about the students pleasing me and not about them learning how to craft their own writing as they saw fit. This is a totally different way of thinking from how I learned how to teach. This is a hard habit to break after so many years, but I'm working on it.
I could have sworn that I walked around the room and videotaped my students writing. I can't find the video anywhere. I do have a video though that I made that explains what the students were doing during their independent practice. I hope my video gives you a good idea of the flow of the lesson.
When the class was done creating their writing I said, " Today we learned how to take our information and use it in our own writing. You looked at all the components that your writing needed to have and hopefully you have all those components. Tomorrow we will write our sloppy copies and do some editing.