Each day, I begin my ELA class with Reading Time. This is a time for students to access a range of texts. I use this time to conference with students, collect data on class patterns and trends with independent reading and to provide individualized support.
Once students have learned about the summer reading project, the first major step is to understand the genre of writing students will be creating. This genre we call quality pieces and students will be personifying the quality they have chosen that represents the main character from the summer reading book. This lessons serves a dual purpose. Students are able to analyze a mentor text of a quality piece to determine craft techniques and then use that information to craft their own quality pieces. This lesson serves as the first time students will be using mentor texts so it also serves as a bit of an informal assessment to see how students are able to analyze the writing style of others.
I begin the lesson by defining craft techniques for the students. We use the Craft Techniques Lists to begin and have students write down the definition from the fifth slide. This is a very specific definition and I use so we have a common definition to work with. This definition allows me to then move on to the next part, which is analyzing mentor texts.
I pass out examples of quality pieces to use as mentor texts. The Quality Piece Mentor Texts that I use come from a book called The Book Of Qualities by J. Ruth Gendler. This book lists various qualities and values of people and then personifies each one in a short piece. I read one piece to begin and as a class we discuss various craft techniques the author used to write the piece. I have my own Teacher Notes that I can refer back to. As we create this Craft Techniques Lists, I am adding on the various craft techniques. For classes that may struggle I can begin to show them some specific from notes and then students can then add on to the list.
The Teacher Notes Explanation video discusses my own teacher notes.
The craft techniques that I want students to be aware of are personification, imagery, description, and connection to the reader. Yes, there are many more but those are the four that are most prevalent in the pieces that will help students as they write their own.
This is also a great place to differentiate instruction. Depending on the class, I have worked with smaller groups guiding throughout the process, while other groups have been able to do this work independently.
After students understand craft techniques in the quality pieces, I give students time to begin drafting their own piece. It's important to give students time in class to write, especially when they begin writing and when they are working with a new genre. It can be challenging for a student to just start writing, so giving them time allows me to give them that initial push if needed. It also helps them to think through their writing more. If they write at home, I've noticed they tend to rush through their work.
I instruct the class to take out their notebooks. I tell them they will have the rest of the class period to begin drafting their own quality piece using a work that describes the main character of the book. This can be tough for students to start so they are different ways to work around it. Some students may need to go back in their summer reading book and look through the book to think of a quality of the main character. They may need to find passages first that support their claim. Once they do that, they can the begin to personify the character. The passages will not be part of the personification specifically but part of the project. This helps to scaffold their thinking. Other students already have a quality in mind and can begin writing.
There are two resources that help students throughout this process. The first one I use is the Quality Piece Teacher Example. This is my own example of a personified quality that I wrote using Individuality. When students can see concrete examples, they are able to think of their own. I try writing with my students as much as possible so I can share with them what works and what doesn't. Another resource that is available is the Craft Techniques Lists that we refereed to earlier. Keeping this up on the board helps students to think about the techniques to use as they write their own personified quality piece.