Writing Strategy – A “Snap Shot” (Grade 5)
Today in my classroom I was thrilled to see students engaged in the writing process with more independence and energy than ever before.
… & it just so happened that a colleague of mine walked passed our room as we were in full swing.
He poked his nose though the doorway (my door is always opens ;-) , remarked on their active engagement and independence, & asked me what they were doing.
I told him that they were making their way through the writing process.
I explained that if he was a fly on my classroom wall, he would see this activity – and level of engagement – weekly. He would see students writing, talking and moving about the room as they develop poems, stories and short essays.
The following afternoon — at his request — I shared my program with him.
I introduce the concept – the assignment. I typically read a “related” picture book (never underestimate the power of picture books!) to my Grade 5s as they sit at the carpet. Along the way we stop to discuss the writing & illustrations. All the while we are building our vocabulary and understanding of the topic at hand. We are generating ideas, questions and “Ah-ha!” moments. Students are invited/encouraged to bring note pads to the carpet to record ideas (jot notes) along the way should they choose.
We then move on to something else totally unrelated. We leave this session for an hour or a day. We are giving our ideas time to grow and gel.
2. Playing with ideas:
We revisit the assignment. We talk a lot. We brainstorm. Before putting pen to paper we play with ideas. I provide a safe environment in which children feel confident enough to stop me in my tracks should they come across a word or concept that they don’t understand. We explore various approaches, outlines and graphic organizers. We explore the different methods that can be used to develop and organize ideas before beginning first drafts.
3. Model the assignment/the approach:
Later I follow up with students in small groups. I model the process of breaking assignments down into smaller more manageable units. Over the course of the school year school students are better able to do this for themselves. It’s a life skill!
4. Graphic Organizers:
Student are given a choice of several graphic organizers to use as a means of getting started. Once the graphic organizers have been completed to the best of the students ability they often break into pairs to share, discuss and develop ideas, vocabulary, etc.
5. First Draft:
When it’s time to write the first draft there are very few rules other that students must remain actively engaged. They must get there ideas down on paper as best they can, double-spaced and as legibly as possible. Students are not to focus on spelling or grammar, but rather on ideas, organization and voice.
7. Getting Cold:
Students then put their first drafts aside for another day … thus allowing them to get cold. The next day we return to our work with fresh eyes. (This is a surprising useful strategy!!!)
7. Writing Drafts:
What follows now are individual editing activities, peer conferences, teacher conferences, and the writing of several drafts. We focus on ideas, organization, word choice, sentences fluency, voice and finally conventions. (e.g. http://bit.ly/383tf & http://bit.ly/ieFDJl)
*** Note: As a teacher I am constantly teaching, modeling and pointing out the elements of good writing. I keep examples and models of “good writing” for student reference – some kids really benefit from knowing where they are going. As a class we develop writing rubrics together. In exploring expectations and developing rubrics together I have found that students exhibit a greater amount of ownership … they tend to buy into to, and the use and the process without question … they see it as meaningful and authentic.