This is our first class back after an extended (thank you, blizzard!) holiday vacation. Not only that, but this is the very first class of the day. Therefore it is the first time in over two weeks that my students have been awake at 7:30 am. I always have this in mind on the first day back after vacation, knowing that this is a time to "unfreeze the pipes" and get them back into a schedule. We will spend the first few minutes settling in, checking in with each other. The discussion, of course, will be mostly be about break, which will naturally lead into the activity for today...
Today we are going to write what I call a "Slice of Life" (W.9-10.3), which we will share all together after writing. I tell them that I don't want to hear about everything they did over vacation; I just want to know about one thing: the moment you woke up at noon on the first day of break and how great that felt, the moment the clock struck midnight on New Years, sledding or skiing after the snowstorm, anything! But I remind them that they can't feed me the whole pie, it's just too much. I only want a piece. That doesn't mean the slice shouldn't be good! As the audience, we should feel like we are in the moment with them, feeling what they felt, which can be difficult to do. A good trick is to think about the senses because that's how we experience the world. For this assignment, I am going to require that they incorporate three of the five senses. Some prompts I might give to help explain are: how could you describe drinking hot chocolate after coming in from shoveling the driveway? Describe the Christmas dinner to someone who has never experienced your mom's cooking. What did you do when you saw the school cancellations on the news/computer?
I'm also going to ask that they incorporate two similes or metaphors into the piece of writing (W.9-10.3d). Using figurative language to write effectively is hard. Typically students at this age are pro's when it comes to spotting similes in writing, but they aren't as skilled when they have to think of their own. This fun, personal assignment gets them thinking again and provides an opportunity for them to practice useful skills.
After writing, every student will share their "slice with the class" (which I will make them aware of from the beginning of class), I will ask for volunteers at first, but I'm sure after a couple of eager hands, I will have to pick students. I recognize that it can be difficult to read our own writing, especially when it's personal in nature. And although everyone will have to share, they have the option of having a peer read it for them, if they prefer. Some students prefer to do this because they feel like less of the attention is on them or because they become self-conscious while reading aloud (SL.9-10.1).