Thursday, February 28, 2013

Sweet Words and Being a Writer

 My kiddos gave me the sweetest compliment today, and I don't even think they realized how it touched my heart.  We were talking about how many days we'd been in school (120 days today) and then moved on to how many days of school were left.  One little girl got confused and heard me say "How many days are left?" and thought we were talking about in the week.  She said, "1".  When I said, "Oh no, you mean tomorrow is the last day of school?!"  To which my sweeties all started saying things like, "I don't want it to be summer." and "I don't want school to be over."  Yep, it made my day.

Our district is looking at adopting a new reading series this year.  With all of the new Common Core Standards, they really want to get away from a basal series and are looking for options that are better aligned with CCSS.  Currently, this is the main option we are looking at:
Yep - that's the whole kit.  No more reading basal for the kids to read from.  Here's what the website says about the Making Meaning program:
"The program uses nonfiction and fiction read-aloud books to teach students nine different comprehension strategies while also developing their social values to create a supportive community of readers."
and about the Being a Writer component:
"The program has two goals: to develop the creativity and skills of a writer, and to develop the social and ethical values of a responsible person. It uses high-quality trade books for genre immersion and author studies, and easy-to-teach mini-lessons to reinforce the skills and conventions taught in the program. Writing instruction, regular community-building elements, and guided partner work are integrated to develop in students a sense of autonomy, belonging, and competence."

I'm actually really excited about this.  I've never really been a basal kinda gal, if you know what I mean.  The best part is that our district bought a kit of each component to pilot in my classroom.  We started the writing program this week and it's really going well.  Now, let me just say that I have never claimed to be a super writing teacher.  In fact, I stink at teaching writing writing is my most challenging subject to teach!  But today was AWESOME!!  The program really focuses a lot on having the kids sharing and discussing their writing with each other.  This week, we are working on writing opinion pieces.  After discussing what an opinion is, I wrote a model piece on my favorite t.v. show.  I've been using this pack I purchased on TpT:

I then used the sheet included in this pack and had the kids brainstorm things that they had an opinion about.  Today, we reviewed the model writing and they were able to choose what topic they wanted to write about from their brainstorm sheet.  
Now, here's where the magic comes in.  Based on the lesson from Being a Writer, I went through the model writing sentence by sentence.  After I read my sentence, I had them turn to their partner and share what their topic sentence (or reason, or closing sentence, etc) would say.  Once we went through the whole example, I told them, "Now, you already know what you're going to write!  You just have to put it down on paper."  Their eyes got really big and they were so excited to write.  We actually were running a little late for lunch, so I passed out paper and told them that they only had about 2 minutes to write their name, the date, and their topic sentence.  You know what - EVERY child was able to get done in that 2 minutes!  
Now, usually, I have those who, even after extensive modeling, interactive writing, etc.  just sit there and can't really get started.  Nope, not now.  Tomorrow, we will share with our partners again and write the rest of our opinion piece.  

If this is any indication of how the rest of the lessons in writing will go, I am super excited!  I actually can't wait until writing time tomorrow!  If you want to check out this series, you can find more information at
Developmental Studies Center