I Don't Know What to Write!
The fourth grade team has been struggling a bit with transitioning students into their narrative writing. Because their units start off with realistic fiction and everyone else is working on small moments, they decided to do a kind of “if, then” curriculum piece to cover these skills. The students have been excited to write and share their stories, but some of them are still working on how to figure out if an idea is a small moment.
I searched Pinterest for some anchor chart inspiration and was not disappointed! I loved the chart I found that gave ideas of places to look for topics: places you go everyday, things you do all the time, people you know really well, things you care about, and things you know a lot about. I took that a step further and talked to students about how I would use this to help me generate small moment ideas.
I showed the students who I would make a web from the topic squares.
“Friends, I come to Rhodes School everyday, so I have a lot of memories I could pull from to find a small moment. I would make a circle in my writer’s notebook just like I’m doing here on this chart paper and write my idea in the center. Now, I’m going to think of all the memories I have about Rhodes School that I could write about.”
“I am the cheerleading sponsor, so I have a lot of memories about practices, games, and funny moments with Ms. McVicker, so I’ll add that to my web. I also work on the Dinner Dance with Ms. DeAstis and we have so much fun planning and getting ready that I could pull a lot of ideas out of that topic. Finally, I get to come into classrooms and help you guys with writing which is new this year. I have learned a lot and I could write about little memories I have from those moments. Now, what I’m writing around my main idea topics aren’t all small moments, but they are places where I can start when I’m trying to think of a small moment on which to write. I could pull one memory about cheerleading out and write about that one teeny tiny moment and still have a million other teeny tiny cheerleading moments to write about.”
Once I went through a web for each big topic, I asked the students to make their own webs in their writer’s notebooks.
Some students stated drawing the boxes of where to get ideas into their notebooks and had to be redirected to make the webs. By the time I did this lesson the third time, I set them up for this from the beginning by showing two pieces of chart paper and told students what each one was for (one is for reference and one is an example of what you’re going to be putting into your own writer’s notebook. Now that I’m writing this, I’m thinking I should have titled the second sheet “In My Writer’s Notebook” to make it a little bit more clear. You can see on the pictures above that I labeled the main idea and memories with another marker color to help with that confusion.
Some students were writing descriptors instead of memories. For example, a student was put “sister” in his main idea bubble and then listed a bunch of descriptive words about her around the circle. While I was walking around I talked to students and asked him if he had specific memories about his sister, once he got that going, he was able to make a shift to writing memories. I think that is something I could make better the next time, too. I didn’t label the second page in each class, so I think I should do that to help reiterate what the expectation is for the students.
Overall, I think it went well and the students were full of ideas to start adding to their topic webs. This is a strategy they can come back to throughout the year to keep adding in topics and memories for their writing.