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 four of four in the publishing process.
Over the past several days, students have been busy typing their informational chapter books on the website, StoryJumper. They created covers for their masterpieces and now it’s time to add in the text features.
I ask students to clear their desks of everything but their Informational Notebooks and pencils. We’re going to need lots of space today! Before class, I printed copies of their books and now hand them out to students. I explain that today we will transform these full-size papers into a real book! After trimming the papers, adding text features, and binding - they will finally be finished!
Our first step is to make sense of the stack of papers before us. Within each stack, there could be blank pages that need to be removed, pages that need re-ordering, or perhaps pages that need to be added. So we check this first. Students pull out papers that were simply fillers or choose to add extra paper for text features. We flip through our stacks making sure things are in place before we start cutting.
When you print a StoryJumper book, each page measures roughly 5.5 x 8.5 so one page of the book basically takes just the top half of a letter-sized sheet of paper. If you want it to look like a real book without random white space at the bottom, then you’ll need to cut each page in half. Of course, you could leave that space there and add all sorts of features. But, we wanted ours to look like booklets so we aligned our stacks and cut off the bottoms. We took turns passing around the staplers and fixed our pages into place. Viola! A booklet emerged!
I asked students to open up to chapter one in their notebooks and review the features they planned for this chapter. I showed them my example book as well as my planned features and then modeled how I would go about adding them to each chapter. Again, I stressed that students had completed control of what their books looked like so there’s no need to copy my ideas. I simply reminded them that each chapter needed at least two text features and that those features should be varied (not all illustrations with captions). Hopefully though, this should not be an issue as students planned their features weeks ago. With that, I set them off to work! While students are busy, I get to spend the time offering advice - when asked - but otherwise observing. I taped a few students who were hard at work thinking, planning, and constructing their books.
At the end of our work time, we do a quick check in to see who was able to finish their work. I saw that few students were able to finish all four chapters today, so I explain that they will have more time to complete their books tomorrow.