Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Writing Wednesday - Snapshots, Talkshots, and Thoughtshots

Since I love writing so much and feel like it is one of my strongest teaching areas, I'm going to try to regularly write about what we are doing in writing.  I already posted a bit about writing here.

In my district, we don't have a set writing curriculum.  It's a bit of a hodgepodge, do-what-you-want sort of thing.  Our Language Arts curriculum, Treasures, has writing in it.  A few years ago (before I was there), they did 6 Traits of Writing trainings.  I have the materials they got at the trainings.  We each have a teacher's edition and half a class set of Write Source.  Using any of these as the set curriculum  does not prepare students at the right time of year for the three district-wide writing assessments and certainly won't get our 4th graders ready for the state writing test in March.  

So we just do what we want, basically.

Right now, we are working on narratives.  Our first district assessment, which is mid-October (yikes, that's soon!), is fictional narratives, but we start with personal narratives and then move into fiction because it's easier for kiddos to put details in about something that has really happened.

Last week and the beginning of this week, we worked on Snapshots, Talkshots, and Thoughtshots.

For each one, my lesson went the same way:

1.  Read a published example from books most students know (Harry Potter and Rick Riordan books to the rescue!).  

2. Have a class discussion about how they felt as readers (they make you feel in the story) and what kind of information they got from the excerpt. 

3. Take notes.  I do my notes under the document camera, and they copy.  We have a special section in our writing notebooks for notes.

4.  I model from the story I'm working on with them.  I pick out a scene from my Backwards S (our picture mapping) and then do think-aloud writing on the document camera.  I make sure to talk a lot about how I don't remember every exact detail, but I make up reasonable details.  They just watch and listen. Some try to give me ideas.

5.  I tell the students that when they get back from lunch, they will do what I just did from one of their own Backwards Ss. I remind them they need to come in silently.  

6. We have lunch.  I write a reminder of instructions on the board.

7. They come back from lunch, and 99% of them silently get to work.  It is far and beyond the best transition time of my day!

8. When writing time is almost over or I see them getting antsy, they share their work with someone.  We do elbow partners, face partners, stand up - hand up - pair up, and back partners on different days to mix it up.

9. The next day, we start writing by reviewing the most important things about a Snapshot/Talkshot/Thoughtshot to make our mini-poster for our writing wall.  I laminated these before hand and used whiteboard makers, so I'll just be able to erase and use them next year!

We're starting to get good at writing for longer and longer!  Half an hour is my goal for them!

I'm hoping we get through our full personal narrative unit in the next two weeks.  I think for fictional narratives this year, we'll write spooky stories to read on Halloween!

How do you teach writing?  Do you have a curriculum?