Fiction, For Real!

We started a new writing unit today (no, I didn’t forget to finish telling you about the last one!–just haven’t yet).  The focus will be realistic fiction, and I wanted (as suggested by the Units of Study from Lucy Calkins) to see what they already know how to do, so we participated in an on-demand writing situation this morning.  Usually I make these very scripted and time-specific (generally they are supposed to be 45 minutes), but today the directions were a little looser: show me what you know about writing by creating a story.  Oh, and it has to be something that could really happen.

For some this was SUPER exciting, as they’ve been asking to write stories all year (and have even added many to their writing journals that we use in our room).  For others the idea of a REAL story was a bit daunting and even a little confusing–they weren’t sure yet (since we haven’t studied it) how this was different from their personal narrative (small moment) stories we wrote at the beginning of the year.  Oh, and to try to debate “real” topics with 6-7 YOs. Man!  Aliens, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, digging through the Earth to China–these all came up today in conversations about whether they could be included.  Tough questions being asked here!

I then gave them as long as they could (and would) write to finish their composition.  I’m happy to say that we lasted almost an hour, and some could probably have worked even longer!  Man–talk about some writing grit and stamina!  I was impressed!  Many great things were demonstrated already today, and we haven’t even started learning about this genre yet!

Ok, a couple of pics of our Monday morning amazingness! 🙂

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We used pink paper booklets today for our pre-assessment. The unit will be writing on white, and then we’ll use purple for the post-assessment. Easy way to keep it all organized!

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You’d think after this long they’d stop being surprised when I take their pictures! Say cheese, Amelia! 🙂

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Well, I did tell them I saw the Easter bunny out my window yesterday. So that’s real, right? Yep, he was small and brown, just like Jacob says–and he jumped away when I opened the blinds so my kids wouldn’t see him. Who’s to say if that could or couldn’t happen? LOL

I’m excited to continue to share the journey of this unit.  And yes, I will finish our opinion writing posts someday soon. 🙂

On-Demand? Give Yourselves a Hand!

I know, I’ve been talking about on-demand writing a lot lately, haven’t I?  Well, we did it again today, as the pre-assessment for our new unit of informational writing.

The directions were pretty much the same as the last time, but I threw in a couple of wrenches.  Instead of handwriting their piece, they were expected to use technology–either their iPad or a laptop.  Instead of writing about something they knew a lot about, they were to do some research–well as least look for some facts in a book from our classroom.

I also laid down the expectation from this rubric from our writing curriculum:

Screen Shot 2013-12-11 at 9.21.20 PMThe part about having to type a “minimum of 2 pages in a single setting” is new for us, and was a BIG STRESSOR for some of my friends.  We agreed that today was a try-it–that we would focus on trying to do our best and recognize that there were a lot of things to do (figure out the technology, think of what to write, find the information we’d use in our resources, editing, revising, publishing) and that we’d just give it our best shot.  So we chose our topic by deciding what book we’d use from our classroom library:

I put many options of science books (animals, weather, force and motion, etc.) out on the rug and we dug in!

I put many options of science books (animals, weather, force and motion, etc.) out on the rug and we dug in!

Kiddos also chose from a variety of other nonfiction texts in our room to use as resources for their writing piece.

Kiddos also chose from a variety of other nonfiction texts in our room to use as resources for their writing piece.

After we had chosen a seed, decided if they would us an iPad or laptop, we got busy.  And it was great!  I love how the pictures speak to what was happening–lots of multitasking and hard working kiddos!

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And when we were finished, we breathed a huge sigh of relief and stepped back to see what we had done.

Look at all those words!  Do you see all that we accomplished?  I'm totally impressed! :)

Look at all those words! Do you see all that we accomplished? I’m totally impressed! 🙂

Here are some thoughts on the day:

And like the video suggested, give yourselves a hand, friends for a JOB WELL DONE!  YOU ROCK!!  I’m so proud and you should be, too!

Informational Writing Lessons

Remember when I wrote about what had been going on with Narrative Writing Lessons a little while ago? That post was actually one that I used in my class with my kids (an idea I stumbled upon last year in a grad class I was taking), and this one is instead a roundup-and-reflection type post that I do a lot around here after we try some new things.

We started our informational unit in a similar way that we ended our Narrative unit: with an on-demand writing piece:

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We began by looking at lots of nonfiction texts, recording what we noticed about them:

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Then we began a very exciting and learning-filled journey into the genre of informational text, focusing on how writers organize their writing, write for their intended audience and use text features meaningfully.  I’ll tell the rest of the story in pictures.  Be sure to check out the captions! (This is all about text features, after all!)

This was the first of two informational text units we're doing, and we focused on just things we knew alot about--that we were "experts" on.  Here is our Rm. 202 Expert List, compiled from everyone's individual lists.

This was the first of two informational text units we’re doing, and we focused on just things we knew a lot about–that we were “experts” on. Here is our Rm. 202 Expert List, compiled from everyone’s individual lists.

After we built our expert lists, we spent some time working with some ideas on those lists to see which ones we liked best.  We worked on deciding what our reader would be interested in knowing more about.  This chart shows how we focused on questions that we could answer, as well as creating trees or webs to organize subtopics.

After we built our expert lists, we spent some time working with some ideas on those lists to see which ones we liked best. We worked on deciding what our reader would be interested in knowing more about. This chart shows how we focused on questions that we could answer, as well as creating trees or webs to organize subtopics.

This was one of my favorite (and impromptu!) lessons from this unit.  As we considered what info the reader would be interested in knowing about, we had to think about who our AUDIENCE really was supposed to be.  This chart shows a strategy we tried: we picked two completely different audiences and recorded how the subtopics/questions would be different based on the reader.  Check out the difference between how you'd write about shoes for a fashion designer and a kid. :)  They had some pretty great ideas, huh?

This was one of my favorite (and impromptu!) lessons from this unit. As we considered what info the reader would be interested in knowing about, we had to think about who our AUDIENCE really was supposed to be. This chart shows a strategy we tried: we picked two completely different audiences and recorded how the subtopics/questions would be different based on the reader. Check out the difference between how you’d write about shoes for a fashion designer and a kid. 🙂 They had some pretty great ideas, huh?

After we spent a couple of days trying out seed ideas and strategies for nuturing htem, we were ready to pick a seed, plan around it and then draft!  Drafting was a quick process, and meant to just get the ideas initially down on paper.  We would begin the work of cleaning up the messy parts as the next step!  (and just in case you're wondering, I was out of the classroom this day and my sub made this chart instead of me. :) )

After we spent a couple of days trying out seed ideas and strategies for nurturing them, we were ready to pick a seed, plan around it and then draft! Drafting was a quick process, and meant to just get the ideas initially down on paper. We would begin the work of cleaning up the messy parts as the next step! (and just in case you’re wondering, I was out of the classroom this day and my sub made this chart instead of me. 🙂 )

 

After we had flash drafted our initial ideas, we worked on creating interesting leads...

After we had flash drafted our initial ideas, we worked on creating interesting leads…

...and then focused in on writing paragraphs to organize our subtopics into chunks that made sense to our readers.  We did this over several days because it was hard, confusing work for many of us.

…and then focused in on writing paragraphs to organize our subtopics into chunks that made sense to our readers. We did this over several days because it was hard, confusing work for many of us.

First try at a paragraph with topic sentence, 3 details and a conclusion.  We wrote this one together.

First try at a paragraph with topic sentence, 3 details and a conclusion. We wrote this one together.

Another paragraph.  This one is colored coded to try to help writers see each part (although I wish I had written the topic sentence in green since it's how you GO...too late now, I guess.)

Another paragraph. This one is colored coded to try to help writers see each part (although I wish I had written the topic sentence in green since it’s how you GO…too late now, I guess.)

One more paragraph.  This one was written several days later as another example to hang for kids to reference.

One more paragraph. This one was written several days later as another example to hang for kids to reference.

While there are lots of ways to describe the structure of a 5-paragraph essay (informational report, poster, etc.), the one I go to is always a sandwich or a hamburger.  Excuse my really bad attempt at art.  It did the job. :)

While there are lots of ways to describe the structure of a 5-paragraph essay (informational report, poster, etc.), the one I go to is always a sandwich or a hamburger. Excuse my really bad attempt at art. It did the job. 🙂

Before we published, we planned out what our posters (which they made under my suggestion) would look like.  They each created a "map" of where each paragraph and text feature would go.

Before we published, we planned out what our posters (which they made under my suggestion) would look like. They each created a “map” of where each paragraph and text feature would go.

One last step before we published was to edit (which we had a chart for, too, but I didn’t have a picture of just now).  We focused on how editing is a COURTESY TO THE READER so that they both read and understand our intended message.  Final posters were made and then we had a 5th grade writing celebration to showcase our hard work!

But wait–that wasn’t it.  Yesterday, after our celebration was finished, we sat down to do a post assessment version of the on-demand writing assignment.  It was AMAZING to see how their writing changed from the beginning to the end.  That led them to the post here,  where writers were reflecting on those changes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Info Text Writing Reflections

Ok, friends–here’s the post you needed to work on your blog reflections tonight!  Remember, this is the EQ we talked about in class:

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Your job is to explain the whole on-demand writing thing (because not everyone that reads your post will know what we’ve been doing!), as well as find as many ways that your writing is different as you can–using evidence from your writing to explain.  I hope to finish writing a post all about all the things we’ve learned, but here’s a quick list of things you might mention in your post:

  • paragraphs
  • length
  • use of interesting language or domain-specific vocabulary
  • how you added subtopics of more information than the first time around
  • how you used text features (more of them, more thoughtful, how you decided what to use)
  • if the writing experience was easier/harder for the post assessment than the pre assessment
  • anything else you notice about how your writing is different!

When I get the other post done, I’ll link to it here, to check back soon! Oh, and if you need a link to your blog, here’s one. 🙂

Can’t wait to see what you figure out!  Happy reflecting!

Mrs. Bearden

On-Demand

Writing is a subject that is important to students–to everyone, really–and the teaching and assessing of it are ever-changing.  I LOVE the topic of writing (wait–you knew that already didn’t you?): I love doing it, reading about it, teaching about it, everything.  And above all, one of my favorite things about writing is helping kiddos get to love it, too.

So…this year our district is implementing a new writing curriculum, one that I have had the privilege of spending the last year rewriting to better match the Common Core State Standards and better help every student become college and career ready.

In some ways, writing in our school district was already aligned with CCSS, and we have always had really high standards for what students should be able to do.  But there are also some things that have (and will) changed in response to the new standards:

  • Students will now be required to learn about and then demonstrate their knowledge of argumentive writing.  This is much different than the opinion pieces we’ve done for years–the heart of the argument is staking a claim, anticipating counterarguments (and answering them) and using valid evidence to support the claim.
  • The ability to write in every content area, while included for years, is more highly expected now.  Writing is expected to be thought of as something you do every day, in many ways and in many places.  It is not just something you do at school for an hour a day.  Students should be writing in reading, writing in math, writing in science and writing in social studies.
  • New listening and speaking standards have been introduced, and are emphasized in all areas of student learning, not just in writing.
  • Students are expected to be writing for a larger audience and making global connections via the internet.  Thank you KidBlog for your help with this one!  Luckily I started this one years ago. 🙂
  • Students are expected to be able to produce an entire piece of writing in one sitting.  Yep, go all the way through the cycle in 45 minutes. 🙂

And so that’s why this post is called On-Demand (glad I finally got to that explanation, huh?).  We did our second on-demand writing piece today.  And boy is there a story to tell. 🙂

This year, as a part of our new curriculum, we have access to Lucy Calkins’ Units of Study.  The newest version of them is aligned with CCSS expectations, and gives teachers many ideas of how to help kiddos achieve these more rigorous standards.  Included in each unit is an on-demand writing assessment (well actually there are two–one as a pretest and one at the end of the unit).

We just finished up a narrative unit, and today was the day we sat to do our on-demand piece, in 45 minutes.  Here were the directions I gave:

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Now, we have done this before.  Only once, though, at the beginning of the year before we started this unit.  I wish I had pictures of their faces when I first told them what we were going to do and how long they had to do it.  I don’t.  Boo. 😦

But I do have pictures of what it looked like today.

Some friends sat with me at my table to work on their pieces.

Some friends sat with me at my table to work on their pieces.

Max needed to stretch out on the floor to get the juices flowing.  Totally how it rolls in our room!  Love how he looks like he's really thinking!

Max needed to stretch out on the floor to get the juices flowing. Totally how it rolls in our room! Love how he looks like he’s really thinking!

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There are definitely many friends with their heads in their hands for at least part of the session.  Again--lots of deep thinking happening here!

There are definitely many friends with their heads in their hands for at least part of the session. Again–lots of deep thinking happening here!

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I set a timer for friends who needed to monitor how much more time they had.  Although, not surprisingly, this really stressed some people out more than it helped them. :(

I set a timer for friends who needed to monitor how much more time they had. Although, not surprisingly, this really stressed some people out more than it helped them. 😦

For as hard as it was, though, I was so glad that in a very short time, everyone was busy and writing.  Everyone got a piece written and everyone turned something in!  It was very cool to see what they are now able to accomplish in such a short amount of time!  I think they’re amazed, too.  And the best part is that the more we do this, the easier it will get!