When I used to teach in Arizona, my school adopted a writing program called "Write From the Beginning." This writing program utilizes Thinking Maps. What I love about the program is that it teaches students the structure of writing coherently. Since moving to a school that didn't have this program (and no further training for me), I've modified things and made them my own. I am sharing the "Val Gresser Version" with you today. I've made all the materials myself, so you don't have to worry about copyright problems. To get an overview of what you'll be doing, look at the video: What Are These Boxes.mp4. I've explained what all these boxes are.
Today's lesson is a great way to get your students involved in writing expository text. There are many people within your school community that your students could write about. Perhaps you have a favorite cafeteria worker, or the school custodian is a favorite among your students. The possibilities are endless. In my case, we have a school resource officer that my students love. My class wanted to write about Officer Lane! When we write expository text about a community member, students are addressing standard W1.2.
All you will have to do is download your Smartboard Community Member Writing Lesson.notebook or Activboard file Community Member Writing Lesson.flipchart and copy the Student Copy Tree Map.docx and Flow Map Writing Paper.docx for your students. You'll have to think of which community member you want to write about and some categories that you will brainstorm ideas about. After that, you are ready to go!
Before the lesson started, I had partnered up my students, and they were sitting in partner groups at the student tables. I passed out the tree maps to my students, and I projected the tree map on my Smartboard. I said, "I know you really wanted to write stories about Officer Lane so that's what we are going to do today. Let's write Officer Lane at the top of our tree map since that's who we are writing about."
I wanted to offer choice to my students for what they'd like to write about. I brought up a blank slide on the Smartboard, and I said, "Partner groups, I am going to give you about a minute to brainstorm things you'd like to write about and then we'll talk about those ideas as a class." After discussing as partners we generated a list of what we'd like to write about. Some ideas included:
Students picked the three categories they wanted to write about and labeled those at the top of each category header. Then I allowed partner groups to work together to brainstorm ideas for each category. I've made a mock tree map in this video, Intro Tree Map.mp4, so you can get an idea of how the students tree maps might look.
Then it was time to take the information from our tree map and write our stories in our flow maps. Since we hadn't had much experience, I taught the students how to transfer the information from their tree map to their flow map. I didn't want this to be a copying activity, so I didn't write anything on my flow map on the Smartboard. I just had it displayed as I helped the students along with the process. Here is a quick video that goes a little more in depth about how we did this: Transfer from Tree Map to Flow Map - Lane Writing.
During this time, my students utilized their speaking and listening strategies. Partners worked together to turn the fragments on their tree map into complete sentences. Then we shared our ideas as a class so students could hear several ways of creating the various sentences. When students were done listening to the different ideas, they wrote their sentences on their flow maps. You can see a portion of this part of the lesson here: Lane Writing.mp4.
After we had gone through the process of writing our stories, it was time for them to number their boxes on their flow maps in preparation for writing their sloppy copies in tomorrow's lesson. Yes, there are arrows on the flow map; however, you would be surprised at how many students don't pay attention to the arrows. By numbering our boxes we will be all set and ready to go for tomorrow's lesson.
Today's closure was a quick summary. I said, "What did we learn about organizing our thoughts with our writing? What tool did we use to categorize our thoughts? What tool did we use to write our stories?" Then I told my students to put their maps in their writing folder so we could use them in tomorrow's lesson.