Students recall a novel we had read together and watch the the video of ▶ The Tale of Despereaux. I use this novel as mentor text to point out the effective organization of the writing. The reader is hooked from the very beginning due to the strong writing. The story flows in logical sequence and the details make this seem like a realistic fiction even though it is a fantasy. The writing is tight and connected. I point out examples of these elements in the novel. Since each student has a copy of this book, we look at the organization more closely using our Organization Writing Template.
We view the Organization Flip Chart to better understand the importance of story organization. The flip chart addresses the writing standard, by demonstrating methods to construct well-elaborated narratives, integrating events, actions, and feelings, sequenced to provide closure.
I model the structure and organization of this story using the four square organizer writing template. Students and I discuss that the central theme of Desperaux is forgiveness. So, I wrote "Forgiveness is more valuable than revenge". Then, we look through the story to find supports for that thesis statement. One student cited from the text that Roscuro begins to change when he decides to forgive Princess Pea. He refused to hurt her when he saw in her eyes that she was truly sorry for the way he treated her. Another student discussed how Mig forgives her father for abandoning her when she was a little girl. Also, Desperaux is forgiven by his family at the end and was accepted for who he is. These supporting ideas were plotted onto the organizer to give students a clear picture of how the main idea is supported by details throughout the story. We also discussed how the beginning of the story, where good dominates evil, returns at the end of the story in a circular way, giving closure and resolution to the darkness and predominating evil in the middle climax of this story. This is also an effective structure used to organize this novel.
Using the Organizing template, students work in pairs to create a short story that has a strong beginning and circular ending, similar to our mentor text. Then, I ask students to tighten their writing with strong supporting details to back up their main ideas. I point out how the characters are fleshed out as they are written with a fine eye to detail that they come to life on the pages. The events and setting were also well written with great pacing and transitions from one story to another within this novel.
I model a short essay that demonstrates a clear beginning, main idea with supporting details, and closure with a circular ending, meaning that the lessons learned are brought back home at the ending. For this first writing activity, students may bring personal experiences to their story. For example, one student shared a story about a family friend who lost his home in a hurricane. So, that student wanted to write a story based on his experience with that family and personal observations on how compassion from relatives and friends led to a circular ending, which the hurricane victim was inspired to help others in need in the end. We used his example to create an essay about compassion, using the story organizer to detail the main idea and supporting ideas. The student gave detailed examples of the compassion shown by society as supporting details of compassion. For example, one supporting detail is that the hurricane victim received donations of food from relatives and friends Another is that he was invited to stay with someone while his home was being rebuilt. Then we tied the thesis statement "Compassion helps to overcome devastation" by the closing statement, "Compassion is contagious because it makes you want to give to others what you have been given".
Students discuss and plot out their strategies for their writing as they work collaboratively to write their own story, similar to the essay modeled. I distribute a SIX TRAITS WRITING RUBRIC and tell students to focus on the organization section of the rubric to guide their writing.
Students presented their four square organizer and shared each step of their writing process. Then, they read their final product. Sharing the steps of writing and constant practice or repetition builds automaticity for other writing projects. Students need to feel comfortable with this process. Their oral presentation reveals their level of comfort with this process.