Monday, February 9, 2015

My Toolbox for Crafting a Custom Writing Program, Without Reinventing the Wheel

This is part 2 of a series surrounding how I am improving my own writing instruction this year. My goal is to create a 2nd grader who likes writing. If you missed steps 1-2 click here!
After Robert started doing his self directed writing each day, I knew it was time to move forward with direct instruction. 
What do I use? The tools that I use are free, easy to obtain, available to the PACT community and reproducible. These are three of my current favorites. (for right now!)

  • Evan Moore Daily 6 Trait Writing (your advisor can print this off for you!) I cut this up and take the good parts. Used on it's own I found it was just an exercise and did not improve his writing.
  • The Sacramento County Library
  • Pinterest and Google (of course!)
How do I decide what to teach? I read his self directed writing. I noticed one of his strengths is that he has a strong voice. I can always tell how he feels about the subject of his writing, but we have never talked about it or how to recognize the voice of other authors. 
Below is my first week of focused writing instruction using his self directed writing as a jumping off point.

Student self directed writing from previous days
Variety of books from library (a nice list of appropriate texts is listed on the Bats lesson plan)
“Noisy Poems for a Busy Day” Robert Heidbreder (Sac Public Library)

I start each day with his free journal write and then move into what you see below. I try to keep it to 15 minutes and use interesting topics and books. The point is to ENJOY the process, right?

Day 1: 15 minutes
I simply started by reviewing the definition of “voice” from the Bats lesson plan and adding our own examples. Then, we read the first “Bat” example. I did way too much expressive reading and he focused on my vocal interpretation instead of the actual words. I had to go back, re read it and take out my expressive reading. This time, he picked up on the author’s words instead of my tone and was able to identify what the author said that showed us how he feels about bats.

Day 2: 15 minutes
We continued the lesson from readworks by reading two different passages about snakes and searching for words that clued us into the author’s voice. Finally, we went back through his own self directed writing journal and re read his selection on Nerf guns. He said that his own use of “great, awesome, and fun” showed that he has a positive attitude about playing Nerf guns and is a fun person. 

We also read a few poems from “Noisy Poems for a Busy Day” and pointed out the voice of the author.

I noticed that many of these poems included onomatopoeia and decided to throw in a mini lesson.

Day 3: 30 minutes 
I defined the term onomatopoeia for Robert and gave him some examples. Bzzzzzz, ruff, squeak, ect. Then, we re read the poems we read the day before and pointed out examples. Then, we chose an animal, the dog, (of course) to write about. We brainstormed all of the sound word we could think about that a dog might use. This was a fun session and lasted longer than usual. Mostly because we were crawling around the living room floor with the dog, growling and whimpering.

Day 4: We read some more poems. Then, I told him we were going to write a poem about dogs using the sound words we brainstormed yesterday. When he started to write, it looked like a narrative. He started on the left and wrote all the way to the right. DUH! We have never discussed poetry before. I brought the poetry book back up and asked him what he noticed about poems. "They don't take up whole lines" "They are shorter". We started our poem over again using the poems in the book as a model.

Snore snore. she is sleeping
try to wake
her up.


He loved the poem, I didn’t have to do a lot of prep for these lessons, and at the end of the week I was confident that he had gained two new ways of thinking and talking about writing.

Note: While reading the poems and other picture books this week with Robert, I noticed that many include talking dogs or items that take on humanlike characteristics. This led to my next lesson on personification. I can blog about it, but I am more interested in what you want to hear! If you have any questions or comments, please post! Blogging is a little bit like talking to yourself. It feels a little silly and conversations with others always feel better!

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