This year, I’ve challenged myself to rethink my genre instruction so that students gain a greater understanding and appreciation of the three main types. In order to build stronger connections between reading and writing, I reworked my units so that they are completely intertwined and cohesive. Just as with my non-fiction units, you’ll find lessons focused mainly on reading skills in a unit called, “All About Fiction” while those centered around writing skills in a unit called, “Fictional Writing.” In my classroom, both units were taught simultaneously over a nine-week period.
Rather than diving straight into texts, I tried an alternative route to teaching fictional elements this year. At a recent conference, a colleague learned about a comprehension building technique using different types of media (versions of short “texts”) before asking students to demonstrate mastery of skills in actual texts. These could include pictures, commercials, short videos, etc. Drawing from my positive experience using episodes of Scooby Doo to teach predictable plot in an older grade, I was excited to give this a try!
The thought supported my agreement in giving students several experiences with a text before asking them to demonstrate understanding of it. When given several opportunities to examine a text and utilize a different lens during each reading, students can develop strong connections, which enable them to comprehend it more fully. Using this multi-modal approach seemed like the perfect way to incorporate multiple experiences with one “text” before trying our hands at picture books.
In my first two lessons, students used picture prompts to think about what is happening in a “text” and who the “story” is mainly about. In these five lessons, students move up to using a short video to continue analyzing elements.
During yesterday’s lesson, students recorded what they believed each character was thinking during four moments in our video. Today we will build on that work. Students gather in our meeting area and we briefly discuss yesterday’s work. I compliment them on their creative answers for each character’s thoughts. We had quite a few laughs when students shared their work with each other! I explain that today they will choose one character from the video and rewrite the story from his or her point of view. I tell students that while they can choose any of the four characters, that two will be more of a challenge than the others. For example, because the second One Man Band doesn’t appear at the beginning, students will need to use their imaginations to come up with how and when he arrives at the town square. They’ll also need to guess about what he’s thinking as he observes the interactions between the first man and the little girl. Most challenging of all would be to tell the story from the point of view of the anonymous character. If they choose this person, students will need to refer back to their notes from day two about the gender of the character. They’ll need to decide when she/he arrives at the square and just how much she/he observes before dropping the bag of money. However, because there are so few details to go by, this version should be the most interesting version to tell. I encourage students to challenge themselves to creatively tell the version of the story that most appeals to them. Before we begin writing, though we watch the video again so that the entire film is fresh in their minds.
I try to give students time to talk about what they plan to write before any type of writing assignment. This way, more ideas make it to the paper and sometimes in a shorter amount of time. Today’s assignment was no different. After giving students a moment to think about which character they would choose, I had them turn and discuss their story ideas with their writing partners.
After discussing their ideas, I have students write the name of their chosen characters at the top of page six in their work packets. Then, I set them to work! While students write, I conduct individual or small group conferences.
To close the lesson, I have students share their work with their writing partners. After several minutes, I have the partners share with others at their tables. I ask students to listen for differences in points of view between the various characters.
I was really impressed with their work and wanted to share it with another class. Included are three versions: the little girl, man one, and the anonymous character. The videos are a bit long as each student read their entire account. But this was necessary to include all parts of their side of the story!