Writing From a Picture, Redux

I re-did the writing from a picture lesson with another class using the three-column graphic organizer and it went really well!

The lesson started off the same. We looked at the picture together and made observations. Some of the students brought up that it was raining hard and they could tell because the splashes on the ground were big and they brought up her coat as well to point out that maybe it was cold on that day. I explained the plan to them and passed out their own individual version of the picture. I posted the three columns on the projector and we got started writing. I wrote the first few sentences as I had before and then asked the students to participate.

The benefit of this was a very visual cut off of the time when our story could take place: from my first sentence to the events of the picture, so if students wanted to write that she got to her car, I would remind them that we hadn't even gotten her to cross the street yet. To get the first sentence out of them was painful. No one wanted to participate (wouldn't want to look like you care...), but after the initial long wait, crickets, and awkward staring, they had a lot more to contribute.

Once we had written the first column together (we knew we were done when we got her crossing the street), I had the students think-pair-share their ideas about what would happen RIGHT AFTER this picture (or what they'd write in the third column). While they were doing that, I printed out the graphic organizer with our shared writing for each student. They took about five minutes and wrote their own sentences for the third column. I had one student who was sitting and not writing (this is typical behavior), so I reminded the student of all the ideas that other people had for what would happen next and asked him to pick what he thought was the most likely idea and write on that.

I'm still struggling in this class with engagement and buy in. It's not as if I don't face that in the younger grades, but I find the younger students are more willing to be coached (maybe because they do more with support throughout the day and fifth graders are generally more independent?). This is something I'm going to have to think and study this year. I will say this, though: the students who did put effort in turned out some great ideas!

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