"Will you talk to me today?"
That was what a fourth grade boy asked me as I was sitting in his classroom waiting for the transition between Math time and Writing time.
"Sure," I said, being secretly thrilled because this was only my second time in the classroom and he was already comfortable enough with me to ask for my help!
"What are you working on?"
"I have written three books, all in my notebook. I now want to combine them into one book," he told me as he leafed through the notebook.
"So, you're going to make each of those books a chapter?" I asked.
"Yes, I think so."
"Okay, after the lesson I will be over to see what your doing. Can't wait to see those books!"
Such was the beginning of my day in the fourth grade. The writing lesson for the day was: Writers notice spots where more needs to be added.
Amy started the focus lesson with the children doing a Quick Write in their notebook. They were to write Cool Mornings at the top of their page and then make a list. It only took about two minutes and then a couple kids shared one thing on their list.
She then turned to a page in the book: A Writer's Notebook by Ralph Fletcher and read Radical Surgery. This was about how to add things to the draft. They talked about not writing on both sides of the draft paper, cutting the draft apart and rearranging it. They talked about skipping lines and then adding things in those lines...maybe in different colored ink. They talked about using * to show where you added a longer piece. Then she shared the ever popular "spider legs" and post its. Now it was time to go write.
I sat down beside Madeline and asked what she was working on today. She was writing a memoir about her and her best friend. We talked briefly about the difference between a personal narrative and a memoir. She knew she needed to go deeper with the writing. As she told me her story, I kept asking: "So what?" I think she got tired of me saying that. Finally, I said, "What do you want your readers to know? What should they take away when they have read this piece?" After making a brief outline/plan for her piece she decided to end it with a moral. Something the reader could take and apply to his life. My teaching point with her was: Your writing needs to have a purpose---meaning.
Next I sat beside Anna who was writing a poem about a friend. I asked her to tell me things about her friend. This was not to be a short moment in time, it was to be more of an "all about" her friend. When she had listed orally the things that made her friend special, I asked her, "How do you feel about Ally?" My teaching point with her was: Ending with a feeling gives closure to a poem.
I talked to a few more students,. I listened to the sharing time where young authors told how they added things to their pieces using the strategies from the focus lesson. After debriefing with Amy, I headed out. Before I left the room, I stopped to talk to Joey, the boy with the three books. He had been working on the computer all period, so I never got to conference with him. I promised I would be back next week and we would look at those stories.
Another successful workshop. Another time of busy writers working on their own projects. Another chance for me to see how smart these children are!