Sunday, February 7, 2010

Final Book Study Post & Reflection

Chapter 13: The Golden Line
I absolutely love the title of this chapter....The Golden Line! When I read like a writer, I uncover "lines" that engage me and enlighten me; lines that inspire my own writing. The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant is one of my favorite books for golden lines. She begins her book, "It was in the summer of the year when the relatives came.." which instantly reminds me of my childhood when all my cousins would come from Florida. They would stay for weeks! And literally become as she describes in her book, "it was different going to sleep with all that new breathing in the house". Finding golden lines in children's work is exciting. One student once wrote, "My mom is 99.99% perfect". Gary Paulsen's Canoe Days is filled with golden lines. He talks about the "green magic where the fish play" when describing the lake that his canoe glides across. I am inspired when I read like a writer. RF says that we should learn to write "memorable sentences". I totally agree that strong verbs is the key to powerful sentences. The example given on pg 110..."The Sun Dissolves" is a powerful demonstration of strong verbs. Jane Bell Kiester's Blowing Away the State Writing Assessment has a powerful chapter on verbs. Students can understand adding strong verbs and with modeling can do this in their own writing. Similes and metaphors are also tools that students should have in their toolbox. Making comparisons can add punch to their writing. "Overwriting" can be a problem. Sometimes when you teach 'similes' to children, they begin to write a simile in every paragraph to the point that the writing becomes 'over done'. Adding these impressive elements should be a natural process. That is why we need to provide them with many tools so that they don't take one idea and 'wear it out'.

Chapter 14: Putting It All Together
I like how this book first looked at various parts of a good piece and then put it all together to see how all the pieces fit together. I look at writing the same way. Using the rubric, I teach all the parts first to help students develop of understanding of what each part is and by modeling I show them how each part looks. Then, we put it all together in one piece. We can instruct by the rubric, write a whole piece and then assess by the rubric. I am amazed at the progress our third grade students have made in the past three weeks doing just this. First part by part with 'I do it' and 'we do it' strategies and now we have whole pieces where we can see how all the parts came together and are fitting perfectly.

Chapter 15: Last Thoughts (My Personal Reflection)
Writing has become an integral part of me. I live and love writing. It has become a personal and professional passion of mine to move students and teachers to love writing. As a teacher, I wasn't given the coursework or professional development opportunities to help me as a writer, let alone the instructional fortitude to guide students. I had to read and learn on my own. I guess you can say I am a "self taught" writer. But my 'writing road" was paved with great authors like Ralph Fletcher who broke everything down into simple understanding and then put it all back together so that I could learn about writing and how to teach writing. This book among the many others that I have read by RF and other great writers has guided me to where I am today....writing, teaching writing and reading about writing. As you continue to engage yourself in writing and the teaching of writing, I encourage you to "read like a writer", write often yourself, and provide many opportunities for your students to write daily.

I have enjoyed reading your comments as we have read Live Writing by Ralph Fletcher. I trust that you have gained some inspiration and instructional knowledge from this very simple but powerful book.

I leave you with one thought....What tools will you put in your young writer's toolbox?

Friday, February 5, 2010

Chapter 10: Leads...Breaking the Ice
Great beginnings? Leads? Grabbers? Hook? All words for the same strategy!
Building a common language is most important when working school wide with any subject. All of these represent what the writer writes first and what the reader reads first. The writer has to capture the reader's attention. I use the term "Grabbers". Our fifth graders use rhetorical questions a lot. It is easy to turn the prompt into a question so it is usually the grabber they gravitate to most. Using Razzle Dazzle, we gathered a complete chart of grabbers for the students to "test drive" in their papers. By introducing the various type of grabbers, students have the option of using the ones that "fit" them as a writer. Since our students are writing 1 1/2 to 2 pages not a chapter book, for us...grabbers seem to work best when I teach writing!

Chapter 11: The End...Getting the Last Word
Endings are hard! Students can be frustrated on just how to end their papers yet they know it must come to a close. Humor is something I've noticed very little in most children's writing but I think it is because it is hard to "think" as a child. As a teacher of writing, you must work on "thinking" like your children so that you understand them through their writing. We must recognize what is humorous to them. They are just children. Currently, I use Razzle Dazzle's Take Away Endings with my students. It has given them "the power of the end". I provide a chart of the various take away ending stems and they choose which ones successfully end their piece. In Narrative, they usually choose two stems to complete to finish their story. It really makes an impressive ending!

Chapter 12: The Small Important Things
Wouldn't our kids just love the story of the "brothers who ate the world"? Yuk and gross all at the same time! RF says that students must "learn to use details to breathe new life" into their writings. I love the idea of choosing "odd details that will stick in the reader's mind". We are always telling our students to let our words make pictures for our readers. Descriptive detail writing does that. When looking at a picture (example: snowman in a wooded field) and asking students what do they see, they'll usually say a snowman and trees out in the grass/field. But when you teach them to zoom in on the picture...look deeper at the details, someone might say the trees are evergreen with thousand of green pine needles, the trees reach the vast blue sky, the snowman was built with spheres of snow and pine branches for arms, etc. The details make the piece more vivid and interesting to read. On page 105, RF talks about inventing details. The example of the clay is really a great example to show how our writing can be shaped and recreated into something wonderful. I call it the MSU strategy! My students know it well. MSU-Make Something Up!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Chapter 7: Conflict...Here Comes Trouble
RF says,"In a good story something happens." I say, "Let it happen". I love this chapter. The friction/heat example is a real world example that you can demonstrate. I enjoy teaching students about Person against Person (PAP), Person against Nature (PAN) and Person against Self (PAS). Many of Arnold Lobel's Frog and Toad stories fit these types of conflicts. I agree with RF that the different kinds of conflict are not always "distinct"---often they are mixed together. When studying types of conflict, there are other kinds but these three presented by RF are "doable" for kids. Often students want to tell the "exciting" part (which I label the DURING) at the beginning of their piece. I love the quote on p. 56 by Charles Dickens: "Make them laugh, make them weep, but above all make them wait". We must help students be powerful in their "During" planning!

Chapter 8: Setting...The Missing Ingredient
Setting...the place! Setting helps define characters....
If your setting is camping at night, your character could be a fisherman that enjoys campfires, the night sky and the sounds of animals in the woods. I enjoy using picture books and looking at the settings. I teach students to write about places they know and to give their places creative names like "Cox Park", "Dunston Drive", "Jones Junction", "Peters Park", etc. The ADAW measures Time Frame which includes when and where.

Chapter 9: It's About Time
When writing the "before" in the Narrative, the students always want to write about everything... the whole story. I love the idea on p.70 of "cutting". I usually tell the students to think about what happened 5 or 10 minutes before the "During" when they plan their Before paragraph. They only have one paragraph and they need to focus on specifically what the story is about in the "Before". I used the example on p. 71 about Disney World with a 5th grade class today. It seemed to help clarify what truly needs to be in the "Before" paragraph.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Chapter 4 Creating Characters
When creating characters, I have always let the students be one of the characters (personal narratives). Even when they created fantasy stories, they were always one of the characters. In reading this chapter, it would be fun to create two or three characters and look specifically at their personalities, then develop the story around this info. For young children it seems natural for them to be one of the characters. But maybe it would be fun to let the second character be created with some unique personality traits. ~ Vickie

Chapter 5 Voice: Connecting with the Reader
Bringing out the voice in my writers has always been a daunting task for me. Some children naturally have humor and wit, as do some adults. When children are writing stories, they are the narrators. I like the view of RF as he says "the narrator must have a compelling voice". I think this will be a challenge for me as I work on writing stories with students. I want to find ways to encourage them to have a "compelling voice" to keep the reader following along deep into the writing. Again, I still believe that the voice is the personality of the student coming out. It is important to teach kids to write to their audience. Sometimes a prompt will say write to a friend. This is important for students to understand audience. It is also a major component for the ADAW. ~Vickie

Chapter 6 Thoughts on Voice
More info on voice...again my challenge is to help student's understand their voice / style. I agree with the author that your 'voice' can be lost in writing just as your personality can be lost around certain people. When I think of myself, if I'm with friends, I'm naturally happy and full of fun. But if I'm in a crowd, I'm much more reserved. The same holds true in writing. If I'm writing with or for students, I'm naturally at ease and it comes easy for me. If I'm writing for an adult (like a research paper for a professor), I'm more tense and not my true self. I like to think when I'm writing a story that I'm telling it to my best friend. That way, I'm more relaxed and my true personality/voice comes out. I think about sharing at home with my family. It is easy to talk and be silly...let your true voice shine. We have to encourage that same "release" in writing and engage our students to let their voice come out in their writing. The next time I work on a story with students, I may do a "personality poll". I may ask them what kind of personality do they have? are you serious? silly? humorous? Maybe if they understand their personality they can explore it in their writing. ~Vickie

Friday, January 22, 2010

Live Writing (Book Study)

Third Grade Teachers @ LES are reading Live Writing by Ralph Fletcher and blogging together.

We are reading together to increase our awareness of writing instruction especially in the Narrative mode.

Ralph Fletcher: By "live writing" I mean the kind of writing that has a current running through it--energy, electricity, juice.

Chapter 1: The Writer's Toolbox
I personally am encouraged by the words of the author when he says there is "no way that your pen will pour out world class writing every day". It assures me that writing isn't perfect and that as a writer I'll grow daily. I love the tools for writing: words, imagination, love of books, etc. These are tools that we should encourage our students to use! ----Vickie

Chapter 2: Reading Like A Writer
This is me now. After reading and studying writing for the past eight years, I truly understand "reading like a writer". Now when I pick up a book, I instantly note something I can use to help others with word choice, figurative language, etc. When I go on vacation, I usually take a few picture books to read myself! Sometimes...I feel like a kid! -----Vickie

Chapter 3: Building Character
Creating a character isn't as easy as just picking a "who". But for young children just learning to write personal narratives, it is easy to pick someone they spend a lot of time with to be the other character. RF says to "start with what you know" and build from familiar people and animals. I usually suggest 2 or 3 characters for young writers because they have to engage those characters. It is easier to involve 2 or 3 in the action and conversation. -----Vickie

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Exploring various genres with your students provides them with a variety of opportunities to express themselves and test their writing talents. Recently, I enjoyed using Thomas Kinkade's paintings (created a PowerPoint of selected winter paintings) to teach descriptive writing with LES fifth graders. We viewed the beautiful paintings and searched our senses to write descriptive paragraphs about his paintings. We charted the things we could hear, see, smell as well as how we felt, as if we were part of the painting. The students wrote some super descriptive sentences. Share one of your favorite genre writing activities.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

As the title of my blog indicates....just write! One of the most important things about writing in the classroom is just to get your students writing. Provide them many opportunities to write daily to create a true love of writing in your students. What is one activity that you use to encourage writing in your class?