One of the most successful ways I’ve found to get my students to put pencil to paper is to make sure that they have tons of background knowledge. A big key to having them internalize information is to have students read a variety of different leveled texts on the topic. I am able to do this by borrowing lots of books from our school library. Of course, each year, I try to purchase a few new books on different topics too to help things, too!
We’ve read tons of Frog and Toad books. I usually read some of them aloud to the kids to build interest. Often I read the characters with different voices to build excitement about the texts. I love reading aloud and helping my students understand more about the characters through the spin I put on the characters with my voice. So fun! 🙂
After I’ve read the texts aloud, and given students lots of time to read the same texts in their personal time, I focus in on specific texts to help them get ideas for writing.
For my frog writing, I chose two different books–one narrative and one expository.
My class currently has an obsession with Mo Willems. I just bought three new Piggie and Gerald books and they vaporized within ten minutes! They LOVE them so! 🙂
When I let them know that City Dog, Country Frog was written by our favorite author, they ate the book up! The book tied in really well with the book The Giving Tree, so I read that on the same day. The students made the connections between the characters and I thought that developing those relationships was important for narrative writing. We read the short book I Love My Pet Frog as well. The author’s perspective in this book is different. The relationship between the author and the frog begins when the frog is just a tadpole.
Before we started working on our brainstorm piece, I reviewed a specific section of text from City Dog, Country Frog that talked about what the frog and dog did together. Then we talked about how their relationship started, and how that was different than the author’s experience in I Love My Pet Frog.
The students were excited to start working on brainstorming for their story. We are working on a narrative selection, and their job was to write about a frog that they found and kept as a pet.
They illustrated the beginning, middle and end of their stories. We also talked about how the ending of the story made them feel and why. The feeling section was the only part where I asked them to write a complete sentence. Some students don’t enjoy illustrating as much as others and prefer to use their words even on a brainstorming sheet. It is their thinking and whatever helps them to remember and process best is what I allow while they are developing a finished piece.
After several of them were done, I had them come and share their story skeleton with the other students in the class. This is a great way for them to continue to process their thoughts on the writing before ever having to write words. It’s an important step, especially for my most reluctant writers. Owning their thinking gives them the power to write independently.
We will continue tomorrow with the drafting phase. I will support the students with word walls and sentence stems. Our focus for this writing is not only to have our narrative structures in place that we already are aware of, but to improve on our spelling as well.
Stay tuned for more on how this selection plays out!
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We are currently using pages from the narrative section of my writing unit on frogs.
You can see more about how I scaffold instruction for writing in this post here.