Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Importance of Writing - Part 1

With all of the focus now being shifted to our student’s ability to read on grade level by third grade, what happened to the art of writing? From year to year, I have seen in many schools how writing is becoming less of a main subject and one that doesn’t carry much wait anymore. Reading and writing go hand in hand. Writing helps build phonemic awareness, practice known phonic skills, encourages students to find new vocabulary to express themselves, teaches about organization of both fiction and nonfiction (depending on the what the focus is) and can help build fluency as they are required to reread their work each day to continue the text they are writing. Do these areas seem familiar? Well they should, I have touched on the five pillars of reading and how writing can help our students become better readers. Good readers are not always good writers, but if you have a good writer usually they are also avid readers. 

What should my first writing project be about?

What do your students know most about? They know most about themselves. The first writing project should be about them.

In first grade, we made an “All About Me Book.” Where I gave them most of the words and they were responsible for filling in the blanks and illustrating the pages. Topics that I included were, This is me!, This is my family.(encourage to label their picture with names), Here are my friends. (encourage labeling the picture with their friends names), and I love to _____. This simple four page book was a way for all students to fill like a writer regardless of their abilities.

In second grade, I made it a little more challenging and expected them to write a “memoir.” This began our memoir unit. Can you tell you students go write a memoir and get back to me? No, of course not. You need to prepare them for their own writing by sharing memoirs that other people have written and get ready to share a story from your past as well.

       Setting the stage for a great first book of the year!
Over several days read the following books and talk about, What is a memoir? *A memoir is a memory. Something we remember that has already happened to the writer.

Step #1
Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox (this book discusses what a memory is from the perspective of wise adults, it starts a good discussion)
The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant
Night in the Country by Cynthia Rylant
When I Was Little by Jamie Lee Curtis

Step #2
First Stage of Writing – Getting Ideas
Have them make a list of all the memories they have:
       Losing my first tooth
First day of Kindergarten
Family Vacation to…
My new baby sister/brother
My trip to the emergency room, etc.

Once they have their list of ideas, they need to pick out their favorite story and the one that they remember the most about.

Step #3
Show them how to web about their main idea! (Share with them a story from your childhood)
       What people/animals are in the story?
       Where did the story take place?
       What happened in the beginning/middle/end?
       Was there a problem?
       How was it solved?

Step #4
After my web, now what!
       Show students how to use your web to make it into a story. In our web, we can’t write everything down that is important to our story. So we have to use the web to help us remind ourselves about what they story is going to be about, but it is up to us as writers to fill in the holes. As you write your story from your web, model how to skip every other line (this will help when you get to the revising stage of writing.) Remind them to stick to one main idea!

Step #5
I’m done writing my memoir!
Well, all good writers go back and reread their work to make sure it makes sense. If it doesn’t make sense, it gives us a chance to add more details or to get rid of parts that don’t really stick to our original story.

Step #6
After we read our own story it is always good to give it to a buddy to read to make sure they understand it. The buddy’s job is to read and give two suggestions on what would make the story better.

Step #7
Now they have read it themselves, a buddy has read it. Now it is time for students to edit their own work (circle words they don’t think are spelled right, make sure their our capital letters and ending marks).

Step #8
After they edit themselves, now they can meet with you, the teacher. In your conference with the student you will give suggestions to them about their writing (it is up to them to take it) and to help them with the words they think they have misspelled. Depending on the child, you may want to help with capital letters and ending marks. (Considering this is their first story I try not to be too picky, because writing for most kids takes a lot of courage.)

Step #9
It is time for the final draft!
Each student will use their first draft with all corrections and additions to their story and make a final draft. Before releasing them, remind them it should be in their best handwriting and that neatness counts. They should use all corrections and implement it into their final draft. I also give them special writing paper, with lines and a space to illustrate. After they are done with writing their final draft, it is time for them to illustrate their memoirs. I remind students that they need to read each page and create an illustration that matches the words.

Step #10
Writing is down, illustrations are complete. It’s time for the cover page!
       I like to have students create a self-portrait using construction paper and tear art (no scissors necessary).

Have students put their memoir together and give students an opportunity to share their memoirs with each other (rereading is a great way to build fluency!).  

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