Today the lesson begins with a little bit of recap from the day before. I remind students that they will be adding realistic dialogue to their piece. I put up an example of correctly tagged dialogue and ask them to recap what makes realistic dialogue.
They use this time to revise their work. First, they revise their hard copy if they hadn't done so already. When this is complete, they find their laptops to make changes. I rotate around the classroom looking for people who seem to be stuck making these changes. However, I noticed that many were already hard at work. They have their notes from the day before. I also like to split lessons like this into two days because I find students have an easier time the second day. It is almost as if the information has set in and they are able to more effectively apply the changes.
This part of the lesson comes directly from Nancy Atwell, Lessons that Change Writers. Before i hand out the sample leads, I ask the students why the beginning of the story is so crucial.
This is a review for many. Students understand this concept due to their experience as readers. Many say, the beginning is the most important part. If the beginning is boring, I put the book down. Building upon this understanding is crucial.
If students aren't getting this concept, you can scaffold by asking them if they've ever put down a book before on the first or second page. Many hands go up. Then I ask, why? Their responses vary, it was boring, it didn't hold my interest... etc. So then I continue, so you understand why the beginning is so very important to hooking your reader. You have two or three sentences to pull them into the at of reading your story. Make the most of these sentences!
We continue this conversation by looking at the sample leads, supplied by Atwell.
Then I tell the students they need to try one of each type of lead. This is a new concept. Students are used to writing linearly, in order. I write my own new leads and experiment with new beginnings in front of the kids. This helps to guide them in a new direction.
Also, an important piece in this is modeling connecting the new lead to the remainder of the piece. Kids will be tempted to slap it on the top without rewriting the rest of the narrative. I model tweaking the piece until it is just right, taking out pieces sentences that I don't need, maybe adding a bridge sentence that helps further connect the narrative to the lead. Revision must be taught as a skill. We don't just revise at the end; we revise throughout the writing process. This must be modeled.
Students will then take their journal leads and apply them to their narratives. I circulate to make sure students are practicing carefully adding dialogue, and adding a bridge between their narrative and new lead.
One way to monitor for this is to have students highlight their changes in word. They can highlight their new leads to make them more visible.