Today's lesson begins with a review of the different paragraphs in a narrative on the Smart Board. Paragraphing is a foundational skill that 5th graders must be secure with, and paragraphs give structure to effective writing in every subject area. It would seem that 5th graders should have no difficulty with this, but I have witnessed the GIANT paragraph on too many occasions. Sometimes it seems that if I want writing with paragraphs right the first time, I must remind them to write in paragraphs. WHAT? An absolute frustration.
I ask for a volunteer to give me a topic sentence (for any subject they want.) The example I'm given is Soccer is an amazing sport. From there, I draw sticks and the kids come up and write a supporting sentence under each of three Ideas sections. The final part is to write a concluding statement. They begin this in 2nd grade with just three paragraphs, and have practiced and enhanced the skill since that time. Even well-versed with paragraphing, students have a tendency to get lazy, and a review is refreshing and necessary.
Next up is the Paragraphing Graphic Organizer. The kids will decide on their own topic, then write a few sentences for each section (Intro, Three Supporting Sentences, Conclusion) that will used to create a complete narrative. A narrative is the perfect type of writing assignment for this activity - they explore a subject with plenty of space to complete their thoughts. I write the assignment on the Smart Board and the kids copy it down in their notebooks. I purposely give them the choice of a topic so they pick one they want to spend time with. The objective is using a graphic organizer to write five paragraphs in a narrative. I want them to use their time practicing writing- and organizing that writing- not fussing over a given topic they don't like.
Deviating from the norm can make all the difference in attitude and performance. The way I went about it for this activity was simply to inform them that they'd do their preliminary writing - the graphic organizer - outside on clipboards. This was met with grand approval, and we headed outside- clipboards and graphic organizers in hand.
Once outside, they found a comfortable place in the amphitheatre with friends, completed the graphic organizer and started to write. A few kids were inspired by being outside and were creative with their topic- they chose to write about why they enjoyed working on school assignments outdoors. (Graphic Organizers in the Sun)
The students have templates of information listed in five paragraph format that are ready for organization. The graphic organizers are a huge help to many students, but some are reluctant to write a great deal. Their view: they need only to organize their ideas and the writing will fall into place from there. I'm eager to observe these kids especially with the final activity, to see how their theory works out.
It's time to put the templates to use...once we're back in the classroom, they use their graphic organizers to write their full five paragraph narratives. The graphic organizers are such a great way to encourage writing without the stress or disinterest that some kids have with when they have an assignment. Overheard comments were positive. It makes sense because once the heavy lifting (the graphic organizer) is complete, the rest falls into place.
I was pleased to see that the students who had less on their graphic organizers were still successful as they wrote their paragraphs. This IS actually the objective- organization in whatever form works for the student. The fact that these kids aren't writing consistently in paragraph form is NOT because they can't or are confused. They are usually taking the easy way out- writing without organizing their writing. I will be prepared to address this immediately, if next year's class has a similar issue.
They had the opportunity to share their narratives with the class.