Today I visited a fourth grade classroom where I do some volunteering in their writer's workshop. It is an amazing class with amazing students and an equally amazing teacher. Today they were working on their literary essays. Some were reviewing their thesis statements. Some were beginning to plan their evidence to support the statement. Some were revising their statements. It was a busy place!
My assignment was to work with four students who needed to revising their statements and make them clearer. That was not an easy job! I sat next to Anna first. She was doing an essay on one of the Harry Potter books. She had all of her sticky notes piled into groups according to themes she had found in the book. After a short discussion on what she had done and what she was seeing in her notes, she decided to go with Dumbledore and his importance to the story. Her thinking was taking her to why he kept reappearing in the story. She knew this was important, but how. Her final statement went like this: " I think Dumbledore is important because he gave Harry his father's cloak and taught him about Tom Riddle and how to kill Tom Riddle." Remember, she is a fourth grader!
I also talked to David who was doing an essay on A Dog's Life by Ann Martin. He, too, had piles of sticky notes. These were things he had seen in the story line. He finally decided to go with the angle of dogs needing shelter to survive and how the dog in the story, Meat, went to many places to find shelter. We made a list of the places he went and where he stayed when he was there. From that information he was going to write his thesis statement. I left him to work on that.
At the end of the writing time, the students did a Museum Walk. They all sat in a circle and put their plans in front of them on the floor, they stood up and walked inside that circle. They checked out the plans of their classmates. When they all got back they answered the questions: What did you notice? and What did you learn that you could try?
Once again I leave that classroom amazed at what ten year old students can accomplish! As I was leaving, one boy asked me, "Are you going to have a great day?" My answer: "Whenever I come to your room and work with all of you, I have a great day!"