Writing Our Own Stories

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SWBAT to take their information from their Tree and Circle Maps and create their own pieces of expository writing on crabs.

Big Idea

Enough with the planning and analyzing. Let's write about crabs!

Teacher Background Knowledge and Preparation

I want my students to be able to achieve writing standard W1.2 independently by the end of the year. I am such a believer in using Thinking Maps to teach writing because it forces my students to use the correct structure when writing.  If I didn't teach writing this way I can just imagine my students writing this way:

  • Read animal book 1.  Write down a fact about what the animal looks like.
  • Read animal book 2.  Write down a fact about what the animal eats.
  • Read animal book 3.  Write down a fact about the animal's habitat.
  • Look in book 2 again.  Write down a fact about the animal's habitat.
  • Look in book 1 again.  Write down a fact about what the animal eats.

Then write all the facts down in the order they read them.  They have a story, but it's formulaic and copied almost word for word out of the books they've read and there is no rhyme or reason as to the organization of the writing.

Because the students only wrote sentence fragments on their Tree and Circle Maps yesterday, it forces them to reword the fragments in their own voice so their sentences will make sense, making their writing more authentic. The flow map forces them to think about their writing in a new way.  They get practice in seeing that there are different portions to their story.  Each portion has a main idea and some details to support that main idea and all these sentences need to be written together in just one section of the story.  Because I make my students use the Circle, Tree, and Flow Maps my students are getting closer to not only reaching the writing standard W1.2 but also setting the foundation for them to be able to attain the anchor standard  for W1.2 (CCRAW.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.) By teaching writing this way, we are well on our way to reaching both of these standards. 

You will need your Smartboard lesson in case you want to refer to it today. The students will need their tree maps and flow maps so they can continue to write their stories today. I have this lesson written to be about 1 hour long.  I really only have 30 minutes to teach writing each day.  So it did take me more than 1 day to accomplish this lesson.  If you don't have an hour to do this lesson, you can adjust the time to make it fit in with your schedule.

Explaining My Expectations

5 minutes

My students had previous experience with writing their own stories with our honey bee writing.  When I pulled up my Smartboard lesson I said, "Today we are going to take our sentence fragments from our Tree Maps and use them to create our own piece of writing.  On our honey bee writing we had problems taking those fragments and turning them into sentences that make sense.  Be careful of this today."  

I had the students take out their flow maps from yesterday since we had used them to write our introductory sentences.  I said, "Let's focus on our main ideas and details today as we write our stories."  I reminded them that the main idea always went into the large rectangles and the details always went into the smaller squares. I pointed out to the students that they were going to write more because we had 4 sections to this story so our flow map was bigger than last time.  I also pointed out that our Flow map had two sections that had the details that came first and the main idea was last.  I planned this intentionally because I knew that in future years they would encounter text that had the main idea in different places within the paragraph.  I wanted my students to have experience encountering and writing text that has this same  complex structure.

We did do some oral rehearsing so the students would know exactly what to do for their independent practice part.  We discussed and gave each other ideas of how to turn our fragments into complete, coherent sentences.  I also differentiated the work for my students based on their skill level, and everyone got to use the same map.  Check out the video here in the resource section to get an idea how I did this.  I wanted to give my students enough information so they could get started.  Having previous experience with this also allowed me to explain quickly and get them to work.

Independent Practice

45 minutes

My students had all the maps they needed and we went to work.  This time I didn't have my strugglers come back to the reading table.  They surprised me so much at how well they did with our last writing project that I knew they could do the work at their own table.  I did modify the work for them.  Instead of having them write four details for each main idea, I had them write two details for each main idea (one detail in each box).  I kept circulating around the room and kept checking on them, making sure I could support them without making them dependent on me.

Many of my students just wrote fragments in their boxes when we did our honey bee writing.  This time around, the students were much better at turning those fragments into complete sentences.  For those students who still had trouble I used my questioning strategies to help them.  I would say the sentence they wrote and said, "Does that make sense?  How could you fix it?  Before you write it could you say that complete sentence to me first?" Having them speak the sentence to me really helped many students to see and hear how a fragment was awkward.

You will be tired at the end of these sessions.  You will be constantly walking around the room, questioning students to help move them further.  This is a new way of teaching for all of us but I can tell you the results are so worth it and you will be amazed at how quickly your students will catch on. I think we can underestimate how much our students  are really capable of sometimes. 


2 minutes

I summarized our lesson quickly.  I said, "Today we took our maps and turned our sentence fragments into complete sentences.  We wrote our stories using that great structure of using main ideas and details.  Finally, we wrote some amazing introductory sentences and started our sentences in different ways.  We did a lot! Tomorrow we will begin to write our sloppy copies.