I created a unit to launch Writer's Workshop a few years ago called We Are Authors: Launching Writer's Workshop, and it has helped set the tone for living writerly lives by helping my students SEE themselves as real authors with stories WORTH telling! I believe that's part of the battle. If your students BELIEVE they can write, and you give them the tools to do it by explicitly teaching them the author's craft and studying mentor texts by fabulous writers, THEY WILL AMAZE YOU. I promise.
As part of that introductory unit, we read "Author: True Story" by Helen Lester, and then the kiddos create their own autobiographical books about their literate lives. This is a great formative tool for me to find out what their perceived strengths and weaknesses are. It also helps me develop a list of mini-lessons to hit each year based on my students' questions. This is a great tool that serves dual purposes!
I also send them home with Inspiration Bags. It's their first homework of the year! They bring objects to school (almost like show and tell), but they have to fit inside the bag. The kids have to write descriptions of their objects, put them back into their bags, and then they have students at other tables guess the contents based on the descriptions! It is always a big hit with the kids!
Because I have had so much success with this hands-on approach to Writing Workshop, I really wanted a way to beef up my writing instruction and make it a little more engaging for my kiddos while building in a natural scaffold to help them with the various stages of the writing process, so I have started creating a series of units that incorporate interactive notebook templates to provide support along the way. So far, I have created a Personal Narratives unit and a Fictional Narratives unit, and I have plans for at least three more units throughout the school-year. You can check out the Scope and Sequences pages of my new units below:
Now, I was trying to figure out a way to show how this is all laid out, but as as a brand-new mommy, I don't have the time to fancy everything up as much as I would like. I did take some time during one of Mr. Man's naps to create a few examples of the interactive templates that are contained in my Fictional Narrative unit. I LOVE them so much!
This first page shows the header to keep the separate units labeled in the interactive notebook, and it has a KWL foldable to begin the unit and assess prior knowledge about the genre.
As the unit progresses, they will reflect on how they are alike and different from their character, and they will reflect on their character's traits, thoughts, and motivations for deeper development.
They will build on that by planning out positive and negative internal and external traits. because characters are not perfect and perfect is boring! Ha! Great stories have TENSION, right!?
This is an example of one of the peer conferencing templates in my units, and you can see that I used an accordion template to help sketch out the plot of the story. I like that it folds back and forth just like the plot of a good story. There's always progress and set-backs!
You can see that there's a lot of attention to character development because its so critical to a believable and interesting fiction piece.
There's also a lot of time spent on the plot and building suspense, and that's hard, so I have created templates to help them plan it out as they expand on their stories. You can see a few examples of this below. I love using the plot rollercoaster as a tool with my kiddos to make it more concrete.
Now, that's just a sampling of the lessons, and it certainly doesn't give you a complete picture of the minilessons or the entire units, but I hope it gives you a clear idea of how they are set up. Again, I believe that it's CRUCIAL to scaffold kids and give them the tools to be successful. I believe that this approach will do just that, and I can't wait to see the journey it takes us on. I am P-U-M-P-E-D!