Friday, March 1, 2013

Observing in Grade 2 and Grade 4

Tuesday was so full of observing, talking,and thinking about writing that finding the time (and energy!) to actually write was beyond me. I have decided to be kind to myself (learned this in Grade 4 where they are writing about random acts of kindness) and just be a little behind.

Grade 2...

Nancy had received letters from the Grade 2s, introducing themselves and their writing to her. She introduced herself to them by answering the questions they had asked her in their letters. Describing her answers as stories about her life, she told the students that the stories of our lives can be gifts for other people. As Nancy talked, the students occasionally interjected tidbits about themselves, as we all know they are inclined to do. Nancy would listen and say, "Now that
would be an interesting story." or "You could write about that!". She was able to use their propensity for slipping stories about themselves into almost everything as a teaching point and a way to make them feel great. I will be borrowing that. Thank you Nancy.

The modelling of choosing a topic from your life to write about began with a verbal list of several possibilities. Nancy decided to write a small moment story from her trip to Hawaii. She told the students that there was more to write about but that she wanted to focus on one part of it that they, her audience, might enjoy.

Telling students that "Good writers usually tell their story first.", Nancy did an oral rehearsal.Then she said that writers try to write about one special thing that happened rather than a list of things.

Language I heard during the think aloud included:

I want my title to be catchy. I want it to be a mystery kind of title.
I always want to start with a hook. TTYP and what does that mean?
Notice I am thinking aloud. This is the kind of thinking writers do.
See how I am skipping lines.
Let me reread.
I am writing quickly because I want to get this down.
And now I want to wrap it up for my reader.

The lesson concluded with a scaffolded conversation with a student and his journal. With skillful questioning, Nancy showed a part that she found interesting and asked if he would consider writing about that the next day. In previous times I have had kids develop criteria for journals. I have also shown them how to select a topic from their weekend and develop a small moment. I have not 'mined' the journal or Writer's Notebook for ideas to use for small moment stories. If I had, I may not have abandoned them.

Grade 4....

Don't we always begin with celebration? Nancy had been sent a first draft students had done on writing a letter to someone who was kind to them. Let's listen to what she said:

First I enjoyed your letters for the message. Then I went through looking for certain things. I noticed that you as a class are:
-rereading and thinking about your reader
-using great leads
- every one of you had a letter that sounded like you were speaking to that person.
-you included specific acts of kindness

Next came a public conference with a student. I tried to capture Nancy's language because I always find it instructive.

_________ do I have your permission to celebrate your writing and maybe make a suggestion?


I wrote on stickies what I want to celebrate and then at the bottom I have a question to help you improve because that is what teachers do. I want to start by telling you what this writing does to me as your reader.

It makes me feel...

It sounds like you, like you are talking with your mom.

A goal for this class as writers is that you need to tell more, you need to give more detail for your reader. If you tell more, the reader gets more of a picture. I want you to think about which of the 3 ideas in your piece that you might want to tell more about. Which is the most important to you?

Nancy and the classroom teacher, after reviewing the letters, decided that elaboration was the goal. Through a public conference with a student, Nancy showed the class how to cut and tape a paper so that an insert could be added. This very concrete strategy appealed to most students and allowed them to see and share their evidence of elaboration.

Can't wait to see what happens tomorrow!

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