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.
I always find that students struggle with their beginnings and openings of narratives. They do not know how to start and they do not know how to effectively engage the reader from the opening sentence. Many times they over think their openings and that holds them back from drafting the rest of the piece. It is important to give them time to work on this specific area so they can start off strong which will give them confidence and motivation to continue writing.
It's important to have a good lead so the reader is engaged and so the writer is motivated to work through the draft. To do this, we review the strategy on the Tinkering and Revising handout that focuses on the lead of the narrative. It suggest the following ways to begin:
I review each of those with the class to make sure they understand what they mean. We review the narratives we have read earlier in the unit to see how they started them and why they worked.
As mentioned earlier, modeling is so important so I also show them the four different ways I can begin my own narrative. We have a discussion about which one will be the most effective to begin my narrative. For the most part, students are engaged throughout this process. They are willing to listen and see the examples and models so they know that starting is the toughest part for them. When students are aware of why they are learning what they are learning as it relates to them, they are much more engaged.
Students need the time to practice how to begin their narratives. This is important because they need to build up to the end of the piece and we want them to start with a strong and effective opening.
I have students create four different beginnings for their own narratives based on the handout we reviewed. These four different beginnings are:
They do this work in their notebook. They already have a general idea of their narrative and where it is heading based on the revision work they have previously done so they can figured out ways to begin.
During this time, I encourage students to refer back to the Tinkering and Revising Handout to help them throughout this process. I also keep up my narrative, The Intersection of Lives, so students can see a model. Some students finish this rather quickly. I encourage them to try new drafts of their narratives based on their beginning. Others have more revisions to make based on the previous revision strategies. Other students need help evaluating which beginning would work best. Since students have seen plenty of models by this point, including narratives we have read and my own, there are very rarely students who do not know what to do.