Snowballs in August

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Objective

SWBAT create the beginning of a fictional story by adding to their classmates' ideas.

Big Idea

Students write the beginning of a fictional story and toss it to another student who continues the story with his own ideas. The activity continues until a story is completed and used later during a fictional writing unit.

Unit Introduction

In the first week of school, it’s important for students to understand that they are an important part of the classroom community. In these five lessons, students introduce themselves to the class and learn about each other. The lessons contain teacher created resources using graphics from Handwriting Fonts by Kevin and Amanda, Melonheadz Illustrating,  and Creekside Teacher Tales.

Setting a Purpose

I live in Ohio where we get snow. Some years we barely have enough to make a snowman and others we are shut in for days. But we’ve never, at least in my lifetime, had snow in August. With this activity, students get to feel as if they’re in the snowball fight of a lifetime during the last hot, muggy days of summer.

I first learned of this activity in a conference. The speaker, William Kist, had us participate in the activity and I knew my students would love it! I’ve adapted it some to it my purposes. It is still an activity intended for students to get moving and working together at the beginning of the year, but I’ve added a writing component that enables this activity to be used later in the year. 

Activity

35 minutes

I begin by telling students that we are going to have a snowball fight today. This immediately gets them interested and paying attention to whatever comes next! I start asking questions about winter, snow, and snowball fights to get students excited about the activity. I explain that while I can’t create real snow in the classroom, this activity will make us feel as if we are creating and throwing our own kind of snowballs.

I pass out the sheets to students and have them write their names at the top of the page and on line one. I explain that this is a writing activity. They are going to create a class fictional story one part at a time. I tell them that we will start this activity today, but won’t finish it until we begin our fictional story unit.

I lead students in a quick discussion about fictional stories to get ideas moving. I have them think of the most outrageous thing they’ve ever done or wanted to do. I give them a few moments to think and then share my own. I’ve always wanted to race stock cars (when I tell students this I typically get a great laugh!). So I’m going to start my fictional story about a girl who wants to race cars. I model my thinking aloud and come up with a story starter, “Once there was a shy, quiet girl from Ohio who dreamed of racing screaming fast stock cars.” I have students think about their own starter and then write it on the page.  After they put their pencils down, I tell them to pick up their page and crumple it into a ball. Some students typically wait to see if I’m serious, but others dive right in! Once all students have a “snowball,” I tell them to rear back and throw it across the room. When the snowballs have landed, I tell students to find one close to them and pick it up. They smooth out the page and read the story starter. I have them think about it for a minute and decide how this story should continue. They can make it a silly, funny, or serious story - the story is now in their hands and they choose how it goes. Once they have their ideas, I direct students to write their names on line number two and then their ideas to continue the story. When all have finished, they ball up their papers, fling them across the room, and scramble to find a new page near them.

This continues until the papers are filled. As students get to the last line, I have them think of a way to end the story rather than continue it. 

Closure

10 minutes

When all lines have been completed, I have students quietly return their papers to the original owners. Each student reads over his page to see how his story was completed. I allow several students to share their stories with the class. I remind the students that we will use these later in the year during our fictional story unit and ask that they keep them in their language arts binders.