Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Tuesday Slice of Life: Watching Young Writers Grow

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For this school year, I have been visiting a fourth grade classroom during their writing time. It has been an adventure for me.  I could watch the children with different eyes than ever before. When I was in my own classroom, I saw the students daily. I knew each of their likes and dislikes; their hobbies and favorite subjects.  When I was a coach, I knew what the class was studying and what each teacher needed in his/her classroom. But, now, I can watch at a distance over a period of time. This time I see growth in a new way.

Today the students were starting their unit of study on short stories. They had done lots of fiction work throughout the year. Many of them have their own novel they are writing or a chapter books they are developing. Several even have a series of books they are writing. All on their own time! Today's focus lessons was: Writers Use What They Know About a Genre to Plan For Writing in That Genre.  These children know all about what makes up a short story. They were using Fireflies by Julie Brinkloe as their mentor text. They even made a list of what they know about writing fiction. So, today they planned!

I first sat down by Nick. I could tell he was in deep thought about what he was going to write. He did not really want to write a short story. He already was working on two books...novels, about science fiction ideas. I knew if I didn't get him on the right track he would waste the time being discouraged about not doing what he wanted. So, after much talk, he agreed he could write a short story using his science fiction idea and it would just be a short story to turn into a chapter for his book later.

Next came Ariana. She also had a chapter book going. She had started on the short story, but actually, it was the next chapter in her book. This "chapter" would focus on getting bullied. Her main character was also the narrator. This presented problems for the reader to understand who was talking. She agreed that she needed to add some dialog tags to let the reader know who was doing the talking.

Last of all was Alizae. She wrote about Lost Boys. They had gotten lost in the woods, saw a large pink rabbit that chased them off the side of the world. Don't worry, the world froze and they got back on. The whole story took ONE page of writing. We talked about how to slow down a moment and add scenes with details.

The sharing part of the day was a large circle with the students telling what kind of planning they did or where they got their ideas: from another piece, a beginning of a series, from a Read Aloud book, brain storming titles, plot map, a sketch, a theme.

As I look at these writers seeing where they came from since September, it is amazing how they have grown. They understand that fiction writing has a beginning scene, an exposition with details, and finally the climax of the story. They know that every story has a conflict. They have many tools in their writing belt to plan a story. They can write poetry, short stories or long novels, even a whole series of stories!

What a great group of budding authors!


  1. Wow! As a teacher and a writer, your slice brought tears to my eyes, Kathleen! It's such a rare gift to be able to help students develop their writing craft! Thanks for sharing your experiences :-)

  2. How great it is for you to work with this class of writers! What a fun way to stay in touch with students and teachers. I'm sure they appreciate you.

  3. It is so great to see the growth of writers. It is always so clear on the page and in their talk. It is wonderful they have you as a meaningful audience who gives them purposeful response. Thank you for sharing