Using Sentence Stems to Spawn Stories

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SWBAT: build back up their writing stamina after an extended break.

Big Idea

My school had an extra-long break due to some Winter Weather. By getting kids right back in to an engaging Story Starter, they can get back on track with reading and writing goals.

Guiding Question

15 minutes

With this Guiding Question, I felt that my students needed to face their progress in their independent reading, or face the lack thereof. For some reason, making it a personal letter to me made them take it really seriously and they were more likely to be honest with me (and, therefore, themselves). Here is a student letter that is pretty honest and typical of what I got from my kids. The letter is straightforward, and the student doesn't make apologies or excuses for reading less than the goal, which is fine. Maybe just the act of writing it will make them aware of their progress (or lack thereof), and they'll see it as a springboard into action.

One can hope.

Work Time

35 minutes

This is a great lesson to use when students have been out for a long break. I was anticipating the need to build their stamina back up with their writing, so I shared this story starter and put a 20 minute time limit on it. This is unusual for me; I generally want them to write complete stories, not just within a time frame, but I thought they needed a specific goal.

When the 20 minutes were over, I had them pass their notebooks to the right and they were asked to read and respond to their partner's story. I gave very vague directions--to name something that was working, and to mark a spot that needed clarification. Here is story starter with student feedback. I'm getting them used to giving feedback in anticipation of a peer review session next week.

Here are some videos of students who have some good story starters following this activity.

Wrap Up

5 minutes

The students were asked to reflect using their reflection stems. Here are two example of some typical reflections I'm getting: student reflection, and another student reflection.