I was never much of a writer as a student, so working over the last 4 years within the structure of the Writing Workshop has sometimes posed a challenge. As a professional learning community, we’ve explored Lucy Calkins, Regie Routman, and other nationally known experts in writing literacy. We’ve incorporated these ideas in to our Writers’ Workshops and the level of writing for our students has definitely improved.
But my dilemma in rolling past writing practices into the Daily 5 has been that I don’t want to mess what has been successful with something else that I’ve become interested in. And I don’t feel very confident in my teacher-of-writing abilities.
Yesterday, I took another look at Lucy Calkins and Ted Kesler’s First Hand book for writing in Grades 3-5. Our grade level team will begin writing personal narratives with students in the coming week, a two-month writing focus that will take us in to November.
This time, as I read Lucy’s and Ted’s words, I had the structure of the Daily 5 in the back of my mind. In place of trying to blow through teaching students how to select a topic for a small moment narrative, I’m thinking of taking 4 to 5 20-minute mini lessons based in mentor or touchstone texts to practice gathering the seeds or ideas for possible narratives. We won’t be incorporating everything from this book; as it is intended for teaching writing to 3rd through 5th graders, I don’t believe that is necessary.
We’ll use Patricia Polacco’s Thundercakes as a mentor text for a memorable event in one’s life, Jane Yolan’s Owl Moon to explore the first/last time the author did something important or meaningful, and finally Mo Willem’s Knufflebunny to highlight picking an emotion (frustration) to write about. If things turn out the way I hope, students will have many ideas for personal narratives; ideas that can be used for independent writing throughout the year during the Daily 5 writing periods.
Throughout the rest of our focus on personal narratives, I plan to use successful mini lessons based on modeling and shared writing before gradually releasing the responsibility for the task to my students. Will they be able to perform these writers’ tasks independently. After the unit ends I hope so. And they’ll have plenty of their own ideas ready for writing and practicing some more.
As I fleshed out what I want to teach throughout this unit, I realized that the Daily 5 will most likely be a great way to structure the elements of narrative writing for my third graders. We will target an idea in the mini lesson and then use the balance of the 45 minute block to practice it while, at last, I will be able to pull students who need extra help with a skill into a smaller support group. For me, that’s the most exciting part.