So for this Guiding Question, I had the students begin putting together everything we've learned so far about short stories. They had to define what makes a short story a short story. When they were finished compiling their list, I had them Turn and Talk with a friend about what a successful short story is comprised of.
For the mini-lesson, the students shared out what they knew made a short story, and I recorded their answers. Later, I'll make an anchor chart to be displayed in the room as they are drafting.
During the lesson, if a student named something that wasn't "right," I had them defend their answers. For example, I had a student that said that short stories follow the organizational pattern of cause/effect. I challenged her to name some of the short stories we have read so far that follow this pattern (which was only one). Instead of just saying "no," I think it's moreimportant to make the students see why an answer might not fit.
Also, I began our new Read Aloud book, The Fourth Stall, and had the students listen for those same "elements." For example, on our anchor chart we agreed that the number of characters in a short story might be relatively few because there isn't time to develop them. Here, in The Fourth Stall, however, we are introduced to 6 characters in the first chapter alone. Contrasting sometimes helps students learn certain concepts.
This story starter was taken from Chris van Allsburg's book, The Mysteries of Harris Burdick. I wanted them to have a visual prompt because we hadn't done many of those, and these images always stick with me. Here are my students writing:
And here are some of their products. Keep in mind they are just drafts.
Here's an example of student work that is a great start to a short story.
If I get to a student who is stuck, sometimes I'll just begin brainstorming about the picture to them. I may mention that it might be a family of elves who live in the hole, or that this is your grandparent's basement and they always talk about their "little friends." I'll really just stream-of-consciousness blabber until something sparks!
For my student's reflection, I wanted to get away from the stagnant reflection stems that we usually have. I had the students write a reflection on a sticky note, answer the question "For this story starter, I had the most trouble with..."
By looking at these reflections, I was able to see how much progression they had made in the unit so far. For the most part, my students weren't really stuck on anything, and that tells me they are well-prepared for the Embedded Assessment.