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.
Students remain in their desks while I explain today’s writing task. We’ve spent the week using a video to learn more about fictional elements. Today, we wrap things up by writing a summary of the story. Students have two options for completing today’s task: write your own summary including the most important parts of the story or use the SWBST prompts for support. To remind students what these letters stand for, the following is printed on page nine in their packets:
S - Someone (usually the main character)
W - Wanted (what did this character want? What was the goal?)
B - But (what was the problem? What got in his/her way?)
S - So (how did he/she pursue what s/he wanted anyway?)
T - Then (how was the problem solved and how did the story end?)
You can have students view the video again should you feel they need it before writing their summary.
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. I ask students to turn and summarize the story with their partners. If they are using the SWBST prompts, I encourage them to use one finger for each prompt ensuring that they include each one.
After discussing their ideas, I ask students to begin working. While students write, I conduct individual or small group conferences.
To close the lesson, I have students share their work with someone at their table other than their writing partners. While one student is sharing, I ask the other to listen for two things: unimportant details that do not need to be included in a summary or important details that perhaps you forgot to include in your own summary. After several minutes of sharing, I have students make adjustments to their own summaries and then turn in their packets to the tray.