By just casually talking to my students, not even trying to assess their prior knowledge about short stories, it became really apparent that they had some major misconceptions about content and length. I had some students who thought that short stories could be nonfiction, some students who thought that they could be a few paragraphs (well...technically they can, but we're not telling that to 6th graders), and some students who thought they were as the same as a short novel (as in not a Rick Riordan book).
This Guiding Question gets those misconceptions out on the table. After students answered it, I thought it would be a nice, open discussion, but actually because they had so many misconceptions--it was important that I addressed them frankly and directly.
Here is a student example that shows some of those misconceptions.
For the mini-lesson, we are still reading Ninth Ward, and finding what I call "author's secrets." This is where I'm drawing out things that the author does well. Here's a video of some things that I would draw out for my students in an excerpt from Ninth Ward.
This story starter, or prompt, was adapted from our SpringBoard work text. The assignment in SpringBoard asked that the student watch a clip from the film Toy Story, then change it to fit their own toys. I felt that it was a safe assumption that my students had seen Toy Story, so I just skipped down to the story starter part of the assignment.
I read the prompt to them, briefly discussed what a monologue was, then gave them a large amount of time to draft.
As students write, I usually hit the kids who need the most support. When I have a collaborative teacher, she oftentimes takes those students to the library and chunks the writing for them.
One secret goal I have in this story starter is to get kids to use vivid and sensory language, because I feel like there is a real opportunity here. The toys can talk about what they see, smell, feel inside of their packaging or playrooms. Sometimes I feel that if I have a single focus (like sensory language) as I'm conferring with kids, it's the same as sneaking in another lesson without being so blatant! Score!