I open by telling students I am going to share a story with them. I read "I was at my baseball game and it was my turn up to bat. I swung at two pitches and missed. I hit the third and got a homerun." and I ask students what they felt about my story? I intentionally make this a short story with no explanation to lead them into the understanding that readers prefer description and excitement in their reading.
After a few polite and a few not so polite comments are taken I share that when authors don't describe the scenes and the feelings they are seeing in their own head, readers don't enjoy their stories because they don't have enough information to connect with them. I share that I am now going to read them another version of this story and I want them to identify how the author slows down the action and describes what happening. I read “The Home Run” story.(W 5.5)
After reading the story, I question students: What was the main event of the story? What techniques did the author use to make the writing interesting? How did this affect the readers? I do a time of sharing about how writers use descriptive explanation of all five senses to slow down the action as students listen and take notes on the learning. The note taking keeps them activly involved in the learning and helps them to recollect what I shared in the later parts of the lesson. They will continue to get more understanding as we move through the rest of the lesson. (Sl 5.1d, W 5.3a, W 5.3b)
I share the objective and state that they will write and fully describe their main ideas of their stories with three sequential events and a climax that describes their setting, characters, suspense and plot of their story. (W 5.3a, 5.3b)
Every year I debate either to include another example at a higher level to evaluate, or to introduce the lesson and create a class model as their next step in this lesson. This time I went with the class model because I wanted them to apply their thinking in writing as a group before they completed it alone.
I start by passing out the narrative graphic organizer worksheets. I included sample one and sample two here so you could choose which works best for you. These help students to plan out their ideas and to include enough steps to make their stories interesting and exciting for their readers.
I review the sections of the organizer and take questions from students (W 5.5). They don't really understand all this until they begin writing their own so I really emphasize the planning stage and do not let them even begin to touch a paper until they have a complete plan outlined and approved by two peers.
I have them take out their Slow it down and describe worksheet from the previous lesson and review what they wrote for a few minutes. I post a class model of the graphic organizer on the board with the title "Good Writers Plan Their Writing". On my model I have already added our previous information (class story) on the Exposition box. I ask students to share some ideas they have for the three main events and climax of our story. We end up with five topics and then vote for the one we like the best.
I now ask students to help me build each event with dialogue (who will be speaking to whom - how are they feeling, what are they doing, where are they going, when is it happening, etc.), description (whats happening, whats around them, what time of day is it, etc) and drama (why are they doing this, how can we transition from one event to the next, what might go wrong, etc.) We do a quick share out and I write short notes on our whiteboard (I want to model their brainstorming that occurs in sequential order to build ideas - from whiteboard...to organizer...to peer...to paper) (W 5.5)
I ask students to review my notes and determine if there is anything missing or anything that we should add - I take student responses and make some changes (SL 5.1d, W 5.3a, W 5.3b)
I now share that we are at the stage where we can use these ideas to form stronger paragraphs on our organizers. I model thinking aloud and adding descriptive phrases (Larry enters building late at night with no sound. Meets Kyle with plan on table in shack. Both hear sound - duck under table - Dialogue of kidnapping Chrissy to get back at Bill) (W 5.5)
This modeling helps students to build deeper ideas from their thoughts on their previous charts. I like that they use both because it gives them two days to review what they wanted to say and what parts they are missing - the peer sharing also helps with this. This is where you need to monitor your class time and student pacing because some groups of students will need extra time to build their story ideas. You could easily split this into a two day lesson and have them organize their thoughts on one day and then write and peer edit on another?
My group was relatively quick in finishing their graphic organizers because I think the main idea section was the big story theme they had in their minds this whole time. They seem to do better at writing this section so we moved onto peer editing as students completed their organizers.
Peers read and then gave advice in green for what they could add to make their stories more interesting. I like to do this before they begin writing to ensure students have all the components before they begin writing this larger section of their stories. We used green pens to write advice because the red ones we use for correcting mistakes and I wanted this lesson to be focused more on advice giving rather than editing - it's a draft that is a quick note taking sheet rather than a final written draft. We do this process again after their final write to check again and offer more suggestions (W 5.5, SL 5.1b)
After this its quiet writing time and all my students get to work on writing their main events for their stories on binder paper (W 5.3a, 5.3b). In that they have shared as a class, thought and planned, shared again with peers and then wrote - they are really involved in getting their thoughts on paper and have a pretty good idea what they want to say. The writing takes about 20 -30 minutes for most but can be longer for the slower writers.
Early finishers can self -edit or peer edit a second time on their papers (SL 5.1b, W 5.5).
I watch students and listen in to those who I know struggle with writing. The ones I identify with needs I ask to come back to my table and conference with me one at a time. Once we get their ideas in line or written out, I move on to another student. I don't have peers help peers with writing at this stage because I want everyone to get the quiet writing time to get their own thoughts down on paper.
In a perfect world all of my students would finish on time and I would have them peer edit again and rate each others writing. If that is not the case and students need the extra time to complete their writing, I will have the students share in a table group - here you can see the strategy and in my reflection you can hear why it is effective for this section of their writing (SL 5.1d, W 5.5).
I wanted to have a few students share so we actually did this at the end of the day before dismissal and I called three students who had strong main idea paragraphs to share their writing orally with the class. Wow! always amazed at their creative writing ideas.
This is another one of my favorites - home involvement. All students had the homework task of 1) completing their main idea if they had not already done so
2) self editing their main idea using the self edit checklist (I adapted the final self edit checklist to only main ideas but this has two benefits - one they get to rate their own work, and two they get exposure to using it on their own writing before we complete it on their final story rewrite
3) having parents read, edit their writing and offer at least one comment for an area of improvement needed. (they do this either at the bottom of their self edit pages or directly on their main idea writing papers
This strategy not only makes my job as a teacher easier, it also involves my parents in their child's schoolwork and brings the excitement of writing into their homes.