Applying Knowledge: Writing Opener Paragraphs for Narrative Stories

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SWBAT...write a "great beginning" to a narrative story that attracts the reader by establishing a situation and introducing a narrator and/or characters

Big Idea

Writing lets us use our creativity to share our great ideas with our readers. We can write as well as the good authors if we practice their same strategies for creating great beginnings for our stories.

Developing Our Writing

15 minutes

In this lesson I want them to apply what they learned about writing stronger opening paragraphs and sentences to their own writing. Before I can expect them to be able to write a story I first need to model how to think and plan an idea. To do this we create a class story and work on it throughout the lessons so that at the end of the unit we have created one example story and they as individuals have created their own personalized second story - both having a similar theme and characters. I have found that this modeling technique throughout the unit really helps them to improve their writing with application of all the techniques and components and with more descriptive writing (W 5.3).

I have students come together and open again by asking them what is the purpose of a great beginning opener? As a way of assessing their knowledge from previous lesson, I then ask them to share the five ways we can begin a narrative story. I take responses and then put up the chart we made in the previous lesson. I share with students that today we are going to begin writing our class story (W 5.5).

First of all we need to come up with a great idea for our theme! 

I have students write on their whiteboards all the different genres of fictional writing they can think of. I take answers and create a master list on the board. I ask students to review the types of reading on the list and to think about which are their favorite types to read and write.

I then have them write down their three favorite genres on their white boards. We take a hand-raised poll to narrow it down to the top 5, and then have another vote of their one favorite type to get down to the genre for our class story. Here's table group 1, table group 2, table group 3, and table group 4 sharing ideas (SL 5.6, SL 5.1d, RL 5.2).

Now we need to decide on a theme for our class story. I once again ask them to write down ideas for story themes on their boards. I pull sticks and then take requests and write them on the board. We follow the same format to get a central theme for our class story.

This year we decided on the class animal (Mr. Nibbles, the hamster) takes over the school.

I ask students to think about the five different types of great beginnings. I reveal the examples we found in books in the previous lesson and ask students to think about which type they feel would be the best way to begin our story. I give think time and then ask students to turn and talk with their table group about what great beginning type would be best for our class story and why they feel this way. They are given the objective to come up with a table-agreed-upon great beginning format. 2 min signal. Class shares and vote on our favorite type - we're going with a sound opener!

I ask students to write a great beginning opening sentence/s on their boards using a sound opener. Groups share out beginnings and choose their favorite. Table groups share and the winners present to the class. Class listens to the presentation and decides on the best one for our class story. Here's a video of table winners sharing for the final vote (SL 5.6, SL 5.1d, RL 5.2). 

 I write their beginning on the chart paper and ask how we could improve it. I take responses and model how to edit my sentences with a think aloud. I then add a few more sentences asking for students help - where is he? what's happening right now? who else is in the room?  and add details in other sentences to introduce my characters and first event (W 5.5)

Hearing the various beginnings helps my students to learn variety and to include more details in their writing because they can use what they heard and saw in this part of the lesson to build ideas and gain understanding of the expectations of a good beginning vs a just "ok" one.   


Independent Writing

20 minutes

We build a story visually and in sectional parts so they can learn how great authors use a format to write their stories. Their final copy of their great beginning paragraph is written on a small index card. Students are instructed to write their great beginnings on their white boards first (they will use our same characters and theme as our class story but can make adaptations as they like to fit their styles and story ideas.)

Students will now peer edit their beginning paragraphs with various partners on a rotation basis that helps them to hear what their readers feel about their writing. This increases their knowledge of the changes they should make to improve their ideas in a non-threatening way. After the sharing I want them to apply their discussed ideas to their own writing to ensure they learn from the experiences and to show that my expectation is that it is mandatory to revise and we can always improve. This has the added benefit of building a classroom environment of equality and trust (W 5.5, SL 5.4, SL 5.3, RL 5.2).

1st meeting is an Editing Focus - They meet with their first partner with the focus pf peer editing each others writing for grammar, spelling and format errors using their Proofreading Marks Charts. They trade whiteboards and read each others writing. They trade back and offer peer tutoring advice and add details and make changes that are suggested. Breaking this down intro two sections of editing helps them to give and get better advice with each partner grouping by giving them a singular focus. It also improves their discussion skills in that this is taught early in the year (L 5.1, L 5.2, L 5.3).  

2nd meeting is an Improving Focus - They do this with a second partner with the objective of getting a variety of reader's opinions on what details and descriptions could be added to help their writing become more interesting to their readers. They use the Peer Editing Review sheet to write down their comments and suggestions so that they have a paper source from which to revise their work. The review sheet is written with prompts for evidence and specific responses which helps them to give stronger examples of advice for their partners. This helps the giver to go deeper with their evaluation of the writing and the receiver to get more usable suggestions for improvement. They follow the same format as above and make then move back to their desks to apply the suggested changes.  

When done with their final edit they write their final draft of their great beginning paragraph on the small index card to become the first section of their narrative story packets. (W 5.3a)

Early finishers continue to become peer tutors to others as individual peer tutors or as group leaders.

Sharing Our Writing

10 minutes

I call on volunteers to share and students in the audience offer suggestions and/ or compliments (SL 5.6, SL 5.1d, RL 5.2).

I collect their cards because I want to do my own review of those who I didn't get to in my circulation through the class. I also want to note students who struggle with spelling, grammar or content issues and add this to a master student needs list. All throughout this lesson I meet with students in a small writer's workshop format to help them improve on areas they struggle. The master list gives me a individualized plan for each student's writing. (I return these after I assess their abilities and needs) Those that struggled or need more editing meet in a small group with me after the next lesson (W 5.5)

I then read them a great opener from two books and ask them to make predictions on what the genre of stories are? and What were their key words that signaled this? I close by asking What is the purpose of a great beginning opener? I do this section to keep them focusing on the big idea of the lesson - that good writers write for their readers and to keep them open to the realization that the authors of the books in class follow the same format as they are learning. This gives them a connection to the books in class and a realization that they can become a good writer, too.