Moving to the Common Core this year has caused big change in our instruction. I’ve challenged myself to rethink how I teach non-fiction so that students gain a greater understanding and appreciation of the genre. For this reason, I reworked my reading and writing non-fiction units so that they are completely intertwined and cohesive. You’ll find those lessons that focused mainly on reading skills in the unit called, “All About Non-fiction” while those centered around writing skills in this unit called, “Informational Writing Project.”
In this sister unit, students apply what they’re learning about non-fiction text structures and features to their non-fiction writing. They’ll spend four weeks choosing, researching, and writing about the topics of their choice. Their completed projects will be a four-chapter book complete with text features. Most of the lessons included in this unit are ones that introduce a step in our writing process. While I’ve listed each as lasting one day, oftentimes each would carry over several days in my classroom. You decide what works best for your students and pace the lessons accordingly.
I have two classes. One moves at a fairly advanced pace while the other requires a little more processing time. While I originally planned to have both classes produce digital copies of their informational writing projects, only one was able to do so. Each step of the research and writing process took a little longer for the second class than it did for the first and because both had the same final due date, one class was able to participate in digital publishing while the other did it the old fashioned way. Today’s lesson is for that first class. Maybe this lesson is a better fit for your students because, like mine, they’re ready for the next challenge and you have the technology to support such a project. In either case, students can create a published piece they are proud to share.
Today is day three of four in the publishing process.
Before heading to the lab, I remind students of our work yesterday on StoryJumper. Yesterday, we finished typing the text in our four-chapter books. Students have arranged their text on their pages and allowed space to add text features. Today we learn how to create the cover art for our books. We grab our notebooks and log in sheets and head down to the computer lab.
As students log in to their accounts, I log into my own. I pull up my example book and ask students to watch what I do and then try each step on their own.
First, we need to change the default page that is linked to our covers. By clicking our cover, we can see that page one is listed in the drop down box under “Cover page.” I change mine to a blank page towards the end of the book and students do the same. Then we need to create a catchy title and claim the work as our own by typing our own name in the “Attribution” box. I model my thinking as I try to come up with a creative title. I even elicit some help from my friends. As I type my title and name, students work on creating their own. Before leaving this section, we choose a background color for our covers and save our work.
Next, comes the creative part - making the cover! We actually do the work on the page we’ve linked to our cover. We click on that page and find ourselves with a blank slate. The first step is to choose a “scene.” We click on that tab and are faced with numerous choices. There are predesigned backgrounds with all sorts of scenes or students can choose solid color. I show students how to change from one background to another and then invite them to play along. While I go searching for my perfect scene, students look for theirs. I explain that some students won’t find a good match for their topics here. Like me - there aren’t any scenes related to bellybuttons. So for these topics, it might be best to just pick a solid color.
Now for props. The “props” tab has been preloaded with random items. However, there are pages more to choose from. I show students how to access these and we practice locating, placing, and manipulating on our pages.
Once I see that students are able to manipulate the elements independently, I turn them loose to finish their page!
While students work, I walk the room offering assistance and just enjoy watching them be creative. As I walked the room, I noticed one student who was making a really creative cover different from everyone else. I asked him to show the class how he did it and put him on the SmartBoard connected teacher machine once he agreed. His video is attached.
At the end of our work time, we do a quick check in to see who was able to finish their work. I then explain that tomorrow’s focus will be on adding text features and finishing our books! We collect our supplies and head back to class.