As teachers, we naturally notice and gather articles or objects our students will find interesting. One of my favorite finds was in 2004 when I came across a fascinating article in the Arizona Republic. It was about two fourth grade girls, a school history project, and the amazing revelation that came to light. "A Relative Surprise"
I keep this article on my bulletin board to share with new classes each year, and each group finds it as amazing as I did the first time I saw it. I always wanted to do more than just read the article to the kids, but never thought further, and would put it back on the bulletin board year after year. This time, was different. I decided to feature it in a creative writing lesson about coincidences and have students practice their narrative writing skills.
Before we begin, I pass out a paper I cobbled together about some other interesting coincidences. I wish I could use the colorful website they come from with the class, but one of the coincidences contains inappropriate language. I've included the link Stories of Coincidence I used to print, cut, and copy directly from the website. Just be sure to avoid the one called, "Will the Real Bill Howard Please Stand Up." The others have great content, though I'd use them in a different order, as referenced in my reflection.
I pass out the three I chose, "Altar Egos, "Breakfast at Earnshaw's," and "Don't Feed the Birds," and we read them together (Reading the Warm Up Coincidences out loud). With each new story, the kids are more amazed. This is the perfect vehicle to get them ready for the main attraction...the fourth grade girls with the common ancestor.
Now that they're appropriately curious, it's time to show the newspaper article titled, Fourth graders unearth 'great' theory of relativity "A Relative Surprise" . Before passing out copies, I ask them to speculate why the word 'great' is in singled out (the great, great grandfather connection.) A volunteer said, "It's a huge theory." One boy recognized that the word relativity was probably purposeful, as well. We look at it all together, but rather than complete this as a whole class, I group four kids together (Group of Girls).
My class divides into five groups and they read the "Relativity" story as a group. Two groups read outside, no one complains that there are too many voices at once because they are all very involved in the story.
When they finish reading, I pass out the Coincidence Consequence worksheet to verify comprehension. The final question on the worksheet leads them directly into the creative writing part of the activity. "What coincidences have you experienced? Describe in a paragraph of at least four sentences." OR "Come up with an amazing story of coincidence, and describe it in a paragraph of at least four sentences." (Kids working on the comprehension sheet)
Using the final question from the Coincidence and Consequences worksheet:
What coincidences have you experienced? Describe in a paragraph of at least four sentences OR Come up with your own amazing story of coincidence and describe it in a paragraph of at least four sentences.
they springboard into writing a story. With the outline of their idea already written on their worksheet, it is a pleasant way to transfer into the creative writing portion of the lesson. The kids fully develop the single paragraph they've written into a fascinating multi-paragraph story of coincidence (Coincidence Story and Comp Sheet.) From there, they go beyond the coincidence aspect to take it through to the consequence of what happened next? They are writing creatively, and love to share in the end. Coincidence Story share and Coincidence Story share.
To evaluate these stories, I concentrate on four of the Six Traits of Writing: Ideas and Content, Voice, and Organization, and Conventions. I often teach the traits in smaller chunks when the kids are writing informal pieces. It's a good way to bring focus and complete understanding. As they practice W.5.3, Ideas and Content and Organization are key as they bring in descriptive details and clear event sequencing.
This has been a fun lesson. The kids enjoyed hearing the different true stories of coincidence, and wrote really wonderful ones of their own. I will also add that they are completely comfortable with using both words, coincidences and consequences which was not the case when we began this lesson. In fact, for the remainder of the year they were citing any coincidence they noticed in the classroom whether it really happened or was something in a book. That was fun to experience because it showed that they were impacted by meaning of a word so deeply.
Any lesson with this title must include one of the most famous examples. It's fun to close the lesson with the famous "Lincoln and Kennedy" remarkable coincidences. There are many sites about this, but I was careful to find one that doesn't include the Marilyn Monroe "coincidence" at the end. I display these on the Smart Board, (Lincoln and Kennedy Coincidences) but they can easily be copied for each student as well. As one would imagine, all of these facts led to a lot of discussion about the former presidents and what went on when they were president. (Kids looking at the coincidences)
I display the class "Coincidences and Consequences Collection Bulletin Board" stories on the back bulletin board for all to read.