Monday, November 28, 2016

End of Unit Personal Narrative Writing on Demand

Let's See What You have learned!!!!

I am extremely eager to see what you have learned as writers in the past 6 weeks.  Today you will be able to show me.  Please write the best personal narrative, the best true story, that you can write.  Make this be the story of one time in your life.  You might focus on just a scene or two.  You will have only 45 minutes to write this true story, so you will need to plan, draft, revise, and edit in one sitting.  Write in a way that allows you to show off all you know about narrative writing.  In your writing, make sure you...

  • Write a lead for your story
  • Use transition words to tell what happened in order
  • Elaborate to help readers picture your story
  • Show don't tell what your story is "really" about
  • Write an ending for you story
Good luck.  I know you will write a wonderful Personal Narrative!

Start Timer

Monday, November 14, 2016

Personal Narrative Typing

Typing Expectations

  • Font 12
  • Double Spaced
  • Title-Centered and Underlined

Google Drive

  • Google Doc
  • Name Doc
  • Show saving

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Session 16 (Personal Narrative)

Editing Sentences for Rhythm and Meaning

It is so important for writers to read their writing out loud, to really hear the sounds and rhythms of their words and sentences-and, of course, to still catch errors.  

Here is a video of Lucy Calkins talking about reading your work like it is...

or read something aloud in a way to help students listen for the rhythm that particular words and sentences create.
  You could use your own writing or a students writing.

Pay attention to:
  • sentence length (this helps crate mood)
  • the way sentences begin -do they usually start with a similar construction-if they do is it purposeful
Pick a NEW PARTNER, someone who has never heard your story. 

Partner A: Read your story 
Partner B: Give feedback

  • I was feeling (give an emotion or lesson of the story....because...(give an example from story).
  • Suggest ideas for the writer
  • DO NOT EDIT!!!!


Rewrite, ReVise, Rehearse, Reread....


***Before we work together take a moment to write down what you want your partner to listen for or pay attention too.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Session 15 (Personal Narrative)

Ending Stories in Meaningful Ways

"There is no right or wrong approach to crafting a story's ending, but a good story needs and deserves a good ending" Lucy Calkins

Good endings provoke strong emotional responses, sometimes causing readers to cheer, sometimes causing readers to sob.

Good endings are the ones that inspire readers to think and feel and live a little differently.

Writers use ending to resolve problems, but endings also tie back to the big meaning of the story and leave readers with a final message.

"As I've been thinking about what my story is really about, I've realized that we must talk about how author's resolve their stories."

"Endings are about tying up and completing your story, but strong ending also have the power to make your reader understand your story's big meaning in deeper, more complicated ways.  Your ending are the last words you leave with your reader.  They must resonate and bring your whole message to light."

*Reread the ending of a known book*

"Today I want to teach you that you can write an ending that leaves your reader with profound understandings. Writers think back to what they tried hardest to express through their stories and ask, 'What do I want my readers to truly understand about my journey, as a character in this story?'  Then they write an ending that reveals this to the reader."

Writers, ask themselves this important question:

"What is my story really about? 

Let me show you what I mean:

Remember Lucy Calkins' story about ruining her dad's garden?

...I squeezed the crushed purple petals in my hand, afraid to watch his friendly greeting dissolve into anger and disappointment.  “And why shouldn’t it?” I chastised myself, “He trusted you to be in charge, and look what you did.”  A few feet from me, Dad stopped suddenly.  As he put the crate of new plants down heavily, his eyes traveled over the ruined flower bed and then stopped on me.  I was expecting to see fury etched into his face, but instead it was a look of bewilderment and even worse, hurt.

“Dad…” my voice broke as I tried to apologize, “I’m sorry.  I’ll fix it, I promise.”  Dad swallowed and nodded.  I could tell he was having trouble finding his words.  He nodded again, still silent, and pulled me into his arms. 

Revised Ending:

“Dad…” my voice broke as I tried to apologize, “I’m sorry.  I’ll fix it, I promise.”
(This shows actions and words)

Dad swallowed and nodded.  Then he looked away from the wrecked garden and fixed his eyes on my teary face.  Placing his strong hand on my heaving shoulders, he said gently but firmly, “You made a huge mess, you really did—these flowers are ruined.”                                                                                               
(This shows more what dad does and how he feels)

A wave of shame rolled through me, and I looked down.  Dad was quiet for a moment before he pulled me into his arms and murmured into the top of my head.  “But you’ll help me.  We will fix it, we’ll make it nice again.”
(This ending shows how even when dad is disappointed – he doesn’t push away – he is still there for her—which is what her story is really about)

Active Engagement:
"I want you to try now.  Take out your drafts and start by reminding yourself what your story is really, really about.  As a character in your narrative, what were you wanting or struggling with?  When you're ready, turn and talk to your partner about how you might revise your ending to bring forth what your story is truly about."

Add 'Craft an ending that delivers a powerful message' to the Anchor Chart: How to write powerful personal narratives.

Take the very last lines of your story and prepare to read just the last bit to the group.
Sit in a circle and share without stopping so that we will create our own class poem of sorts with all our powerful endings combined into one.

"Did you feel how powerful those lines from your endings are?  I am proud! You should be too!"


  • Continue to revise your ending by creating different versions of your ending, much like you did for your lead
  • Revisit your lead and see if that needs any revision.  Does it set readers up to understand what is going to be most important in your story? Does it grab your readers' attention and begin right at the start of the action?

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Session 14 (Personal Narrative)

Writing Workshop Session 14: Slowing Down & Stretching  Out the Story's Problem

"Writing is a craft before it is an art; writing may appear like magic, but it is a teacher's responsibility to take their students backstage to watch the pigeons being tucked up the magician's sleeve."

Character's dialogue is one powerful way that writers can reveal the character's personalities and hint at the bigger meaning of the moment.  

Think back to "Everything Will Be Okay" and how strongly you reacted to Paul's tone, to his condensation and cruelty.  When Paul told him to "be a man" and help him end the kitten's life, you ached for Jim.  You jumped to his defense and wished you could protect him from his brother's insensitivity.

There is another aspect of Jim Howe's craft that could significantly raise the quality of your writing.  

Read the Dr. office scene with your writing partner.

Do you notice how closely he controls the tension in the scene at Dr. Milk's office?  He carefully maintains a sense of uncertainty and builds emotion.  These qualities make the scene especially gripping for readers who are pulled along, anxious for Jim about what they suspect and dread what might happen.

Extraordinary storytellers structure their own story to stretch out the problem and give the character and the reader, alike, more time to absorb the events.


You will continue to take your self through the writing process and continue to use all your available tools to help you.  I would like to teach about one more thing you can push yourself to do as you write your drafts.  Have you ever noticed that in your favorite Hollywood blockbuster movie that the most intense and perhaps even action-packed scenes actually take their time unfolding?  And of course it's not always mayhem that needs time to unfold- sometimes it's a really sad or scary moment in a movie, too.

(share scene from The Hunger Games p.121)

You can take inspiration from some of your favorite movie directors today as you begin planing and drafting.  You'll want to think about how to build your problem and build tension in ways that keep their viewers on the edge of their seats.

Teaching Point

Today, I want to show you that when writers want to craft an especially compelling story, they can begin by studying a mentor text and ask "How has the author structured the story? What has the writer done to story-tell powerfully?"

It is probably a bit of a challenge for you to stop thinking that you have to stick to telling the story exactly as it happened, but that's what writers do.  They ask themselves:

  • What do I want my reader to feel and understand about this moment?
  • How can I tell my story in a way that will make this happen?

Let's give this a try with "Everything Will Be Okay".  We are going to look closely at the part where Jim Howe tells the story of when he and Paul bring the kitten to Dr. Milk's office, after hours.  Howe really stretches out this tense moment in a way that makes all of us tense.  Let's look at what he writes and list across our fingers each tiny step of events.  

(read scene from Everything Will Be Okay p.122)

Now, let's sequence the events that happened in this scene.
  1. Paul makes Jim get out of the car with the box and follow him into Dr. Milk's office
  2. Paul turns on the lights and tells his brother he has to come in back and help him
  3. But, Jim doesn't move.  He wants to know what Paul is going to do, so he asks and Paul doesn't say it at first.  He just says "What do you think?" in a mean way
  4. The narrator describes how he won't let his tears out, even if it kills him, because he doesn't want Paul to see him cry.
  5. Jim tells Paul he has a choice as he holds on to the box tightly.  Paul takes Jim's arm and tells him to "be a man".
  6. Paul and Jim argue about what the right thing to do is.  
  7. Jim realizes Paul is going to do what he wants.  
  8. Paul and Jim are in the back room and Smokey is now in the pretzel can.  Paul is lecturing Jim about different methods of putting an animal out of their misery.    

When you study the sequence of events like we just did, it really brings out how the author made Jim's ordeal at Dr. Milk's office more and more intense, with each passing second.  Paul just didn't grab the box from Jim and administer the deadly gas.  Instead, Howe created a series of tiny, pressure-filled moments where bit by bit, things only get more devastating for Jim.

With deliberate planning, you can accomplish this in your writing too.  It's a matter of slowing things down, making sure you don't get to the worst part of the problem too quickly.  

Slow down the trouble and build tension

Structure your story so that it builds lots of tension and stretch out the problem and tell it in bits.  With each bit make your emotions more intense.  

(model building tension and emotion with garden story p.124 or one of your own)

Insights gained from trying this work

Sometimes you have to escalate tension in more than one part of your story.  In the garden story, the narrator has to build from the part where her dad leaves to the part where they wreak havoc with the hose.  She also had to build tension again when she tries to repair the damage she caused before her dad returns. Also, the emotions get more serious as the trouble in each scene intensifies.  Is there more than one place in your story where you can build tension? 

Active Engagement

  • Think about the parts of your story- sequence them
  • Think about the problem- how can you slow it down and stretch it out (visualize it like a movie in slow motion)
  • Remember all your strategies you know for elaborating
  • Use more inner thinking and precise actions to slow things down and build tension
*Get with your writing partner and rehearse these parts
Then, remind yourself of your writing goals and continue to develop and edit your stories


Every character needs to have a "mountain" in the story.  On the outside should be the events that the character is experiencing (external) and there should be plenty of rising tension and a stretched out climax.  On the inside of the mountain should be the emotions (internal) that the character is experiencing through the course of the story.  The emotions should naturally build, escalate, and resolve.  So, as your scenes move up the mountain, the emotions intensify and as secndes move down the mountain, emotions mellow.  

*You want your reader to go on a journey with the people in your story, to experience their emotions and feel satisfied at the conclusion.


Tonight continue to develop your characters by making sure to revise in ways that round out your character's arc.
  • What do you need to make your story work?
  • Do you need to slow down a moment of tension?
  • Do you need to craft a more meaningful ending?
  • Do what you need to make sure each of your characters takes a journey in your story
*Sketch out a mountain for each of your characters

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Session 13 (Personal Narrative)

Taking Charge of the Writing Process
Deciding Where to Begin and How to Revise from the Get-Go


 What do you know about the writing process?

What will you do in todays writing workshop?

What will happen next?

Today I want to teach you that when writers are in charge of their own writing process, they think back over everything they know how to do, they eye their personalized writing goals, and they gather all their tools.  Then they make a work plan, and they start working really hard at it.

  Some of you are certain you want to start by collecting one or two more powerful personal narrative drafts, and you are already flipping through your mental files of generating strategies.  You are even looking at our "How to Write Powerful Personal Narratives" chart.  Some of you are clipping between several drafts in you notebook, thinking you may already have your seed idea. It is possible that you may, it is up to you. Some of you are looking at your goal page in your journal so you know what you want to focus on in this personal narrative. Some of you are looking at the copy of 'Everything Will Be Okay' so that you can remind yourselves of what you learned from another persons craft.  You will apply all of the lessons you have learned in the writing process.  You will continue to write fast and furiously, but you will also use those revising muscles that are so nicely toned from all of your notebook practice.  

Now you will get to use all your writer tricks as you go.  

You will be able to write for a long period of time and during that time you will be able to ask yourself:

  • What have I done here?
  • What would make this writing more powerful?
You will be able to do IMMEDIATE REVISION work you think is needed, and then continuing on.

No matter where you decide to start your work, you MUST continue to draw on all you have already learned about writing powerfully.

Active Engagement

Flip through the pages of your writer's notebooks. Figure out if you already have a story idea you really want to tell on one of those pages or if flipping through those pages reminds you of another powerful story idea you have been meaning to write.  

While they are flipping...This is a good time to ask yourself the kinds of questions you know lead to stronger storytelling:
  • Is this story idea as powerful as it can be?
  • What is this story really about?
When you take charge of your writing, you take charge of bringing out all of you trick right away.  You don't wait until you have a draft that needs a lot of revising.


You may go and start your 2nd draft.

Writers, you are taking charge of your writing today, but really, you are taking charge of your writing of the rest of you life!
Keep in mind that when you come to class tomorrow, you will have chosen 1 personal narrative as the seed idea for your 2nd personal narrative.  you only have today and tonight's writing time, so really draw on all of your resources and be in charge of doing your strongest writing yet. 


Tonight you have one last chance to generate one more personal narrative draft in you notebook.  You will definitely want to use all of your important tools:

  • Everything Will Be Okay
  • Your Narrative Writing Checklist
  • Your Personal Narrative you have been working on
After you write those powerful 2 pages, you will commit to a seed idea to take through the writing process.  Remember to read over all you entries when you set out to choose your seed idea-even the ones you collected right at the start of the unit.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Session 12 (Personal Narrative)

Using All Available Resources to Aid with Final Touches

Writers, you have many tools to use

*Charts/Posters around the room
*Checklists (Editing Checklist and Narrative Writing Checklist)
*Mentor texts

As writers who are near the finish line of a project, checklists should be used often.

To use a checklist appropriately, one cannot check for everything all at once.

You can't just read it over one last final time before you say "I'M READY TO PUBLISH!"

Instead, each time you re-read your draft you should have a different focus or lens - or a different goal you are looking to to achieve.

Narrative Writing Checklist:
Each time you read your draft - you should revise a different aspect of your draft.  Here is a suggested order:

1. Overall
2. Elaboration
3. Craft
4. Organization
5. Lead
6. Transitions
7. Ending
8. Spelling
9. Punctuation and Sentence Structure

Then go to the charts around the room and see if there are any last techniques you want to try.

Active Engagement:
Consider what your plan needs to be in order to revise your draft.  Share this plan with your writing partner.  If you need, work together to self-asses your draft in order to come up with a few goals and places for revision.

Next, We will be entering into the final bend of this unit during which you will begin new personal narratives.

What you'll learn in this final bend will lead to even stronger pieces! You will be able to then choose one of your narratives to take all the way to a published masterpiece!

We will take a moment, however, to celebrate all the hard work you've done on this draft and all the ways you've grown as a writer through the hard work of revision!

Be thinking as you work this week on a favorite part you'd like to share with the entire class!

Homework:  Before we begin the third and final bend, write a new personal narrative in your journals.  Remember your generating strategies when thinking of an idea to write about.  You may re-read your journal and stumble across an idea you never got to turn into a story. Recall everything you've learned about writing powerful narratives that have a deeper meaning at their core!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Session 11 (Personal Narrative)

Session 11: Elaborating on Important Scenes and Adding New Ones from the Past

What is your story really about?

Writing with elaboration is a foundational skill that we return to again and again for different purposes.  Today the purpose for elaborating is to "pop out" your story's meaning.


Scenes are the building blocks for personal narratives.  Sometimes writers focus on crafting an individual scene, while other times they focus on fitting individual parts together.  So, this means that when writers revise for meaning they often zoom in to revisit individual scenes and then zoom out to revisit how all the parts fit together.  

Today I want to teach you that when writers zoom in to look at individual scenes they often elaborate on the ones that are the most important to the central meaning of the story.  And when writers zoom out to see how all the parts fit together, they often pull in new scenes from the past and future to help get across what the story is really about.

Teaching Lesson #1: 
When you read over your draft, one thing you need to do is look for parts that you could elaborate on that will better convey the meaning of your story.

  • Authors don't just pick any place to elaborate on.  They look for a part that they knew connected with what their story is really about, and then they used what they know about writing powerful personal narratives to "pop out" small actions and bring characters actual words into the story.
  • They also try to add another layer to their internal thinking.
Active Engagement #1:

Now, it is time to practice the same work in your own drafts.  Holding on to what your story is really about, reread your piece and put (brackets) around scenes that are particularly important that really connect with your story's meaning.  

Pick one of those scenes for now, put your draft aside, and close your eyes so you can climb back into your moment.  Remember, don't ever let go of what your story is really about because that will drive the decisions you make about how to rewrite this part.

Keep your eyes closed and look around...
  • Where are you? What tiny details do you see in your scene that could pop out your meaning?
  • Scan your body...What actions are you taking? What are you thinking and feeling?

With your partners:
  • Partner 1- story-tell this one scene, without looking at your draft, with as much elaboration and meaning as possible
  • Partner 2- listen closely enough to hold your partners accountable to the meaning of the story and to stop and ask them to rewind if they start to summarize instead of elaborate
Add "elaborating on scenes that show our meaning" to our how to write a powerful personal narrative chart. 

Teaching Lesson #2:

 Now, I want to show you how writers can also pull in new scenes from the past. This is yet another way to get across your meaning and write powerful narratives.   

Since the story was about the girl realizing her dad wouldn't give up on her when she exercised poor judgement, the author thought about whether there was a place where she could jump back in time to bring out that understanding.

(Now, read the model text after the new scene is added)


  • The flashback shows how the author's dad was always ready to drop everything and put her first- literally, drop everything! He couldn't even acknowledge his own pain until he was sure she was okay
Now, listen how the author brings the reader back to the present time when he is walking toward the girls.  


  • The author took this one small moment, when her dad rounds the corner, and added a flashback that pushes forward the author's deeper meaning that, no matter what, her dad was there for her.

Active Engagement #2:

Now, you should consider new scenes, remembered from the past, that you might incorporate into your draft to further show what your piece is about.

Ask yourself...
  • When else have you experienced what you realized or felt in this story?
  • If your story is about a relationship, what's another time you experienced that person in this way?
  • If your story is about change, is there another moment from your past that shows what things were like prior to the change?

As you continue to revise your drafts, you will need to decide what work will best serve you as a writer and which techniques will do the most to lift the quality of your draft.  Whatever you choose to do, hold tight to what your story is really about so the answer can continue to guide you.


Here is an example of how to use a flash-forward in your writing:

"Everything Will Be Okay"
 When I'm older, I will go hunting with my father the way my brothers have done.  I try not to think about this.  I want to go, because I want my father to like me.  But I don't want to kill animals.

*This flash-forward shows how the author is imagining himself going hunting and this really connects to what the author has been trying to show in his story- that he has to become his own person.

(or read story on p.105)

Homework:  Volume is Important

Tonight, as you continue to work on your draft, you might add a scene from the past, or a scene from the future.  Remember that when revising, volume is important.  A goal for tonight should be to produce two new pages of writing.  Those pages might include an entirely new scene as well as a scene you've already written but want to 
re-envision and write again.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Session 10 (Personal Narrative)

Re-Angling and Rewriting to Convey What a Story Is Really About

Today's work  is about revising as re-envisioning & rewriting.  It is about searching for a deeper meaning in one's story.  It is about using details in purposeful ways: not just plunking them in because we all know writers use details, but instead, making conscious choices about what to include and not to include to convey an intended message to readers.  

**It is about doing ALL of these things simultaneously, spinning several plates at once without letting one for more drop to the ground.  


Revising means rewriting, re-envisioning, not merely crossing out a line here and inserting a phrase there.  


When writers can see a piece in a whole new way, they can write it in a whole new way!

Of course, this is very hard work!!
Once you have a picture in your head of how something goes, it can be difficult to see it any other way.  This is why writers often take a 1st draft and put it aside for a small stretch.  When writers put a draft aside, they often keep thinking band even talking about it, exploring new possibilities for how that piece could unfold.  And then, they start fresh. With blank paper and pen or pencil in hand, they write a new draft, incorporating all their new thinking and insights. 
That is true revision.
 What is my story really about? I want to remind you of an important strategy for tackling a 2nd draft of your personal narrative with  new insight.  many of you already know how to re-envision your story--especially the hear of your story--by thinking about what your story is really about. 
 You know that when you rewrite with that question in mind and then place your new draft alongside the old, you see 2 very different pieces.

Sooo let's ask ourselves: 
            What is this story really about?

*Tell students about bike story

Today I want to teach you that when you let yourself be guided by the question 'What is my story really about? you find yourself wanting to tell your story in a completely new way.  You can plan and rehearse your new draft in ways that will hint at the larger meaning, early on in the story, and develop that deeper meaning throughout the rest of the story.


Realizing what your story is really about will lead to ideas for a brand-new draft where you can tell the story differently.  
Demonstrate using an external-internal story mountain as a tool for planning a new, more meaningful version of your story.  

Above the line of the mountain = External Story (Physical Events)

Below the line of the mountain = Interanl Story (What is my story really about?)

Active Engagement:

Imagine how your new drafts might go.  Imagine multiple possibilities by asking the question, "What is my story really about?" 

Where might this new draft start?  Earlier? Later? Same place?
How will the events unfold? In sequential order? Out of order? With flashbacks? Flash-forwards?
Which parts will you choose to include this time?
Will you stretch out different moments than before?
Include new ones?
Eliminate parts that no longer seem as relevant?

**Remember to keep in mind what your story might really be about, and consider which external events can help show that meaning.

Now story-tell your revised pieces to a partner, making sure to weave together the internal  and external story.

If you have more than 1 timeline started, choose the one you will draft today, and think, 'why details will in clyde to get my meaning across to my readers?' Jot notes on your timeline as you get ideas.

Partner 1: use your timeline to help tell your story to partner 2 in a way that gets across your meaning.

Partner 2: listen for that meaning. Listen so closely that you can tell your partner what you think his or her story is about and why you think that---what details hinted at the mean of you.


     *storyteller's voice
     *pull your reader in
     *make them want to listen
    *emphasize important parts
     *you might slow down or speed up in certain places
     *be thoughtful about the detail you include
    *what might your characters think here, to POP out your meaning?


Tell me what your partners story is really about. Today you are going to put your first draft aside and write a new version, one that reads very differently than the 1st.  Perhaps you'l begin in a new place.  You might include whole new parts, just as you 'll leave out some of what made it into your 1st draft.  And certainly, you will include new details--descriptors, inner thinking, dialogue that will let your refers know what your story is really about.  

Homework: Rewrite your seed story with your mountain timeline, include the internal story...hinting at what the story is really about.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Session 9 (Personal Narrative)

Session 9: Using Writer's Notebooks for Mindful, Goal-Driven Work


J.K. Rowling spoke at a graduation ceremony for Harvard Graduates.  This is what she chose to speak about:

On this wonderful day when we are gathered together to celebrate your academic success, I have decided to talk to you about the benefits of failure. 

You might never fail on the scale I did, but some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.

Failure gave me an inner security that I had never attained by passing examinations. Failure taught me things about myself that I could have learned no other way. I discovered that I had a strong will, and more discipline than I had suspected; I also found out that I had friends whose value was truly above the price of rubies.

The knowledge that you have emerged wiser and stronger from setbacks means that you are, ever after, secure in your ability to survive. You will never truly know yourself, or the strength of your relationships, until both have been tested by adversity. Such knowledge is a true gift, for all that it is painfully won, and it has been worth more than any qualification I ever earned. 

Rowling's Entire Speech

Rowling wanted to teach people that it is best to face hard tasks, not avoid them.

Some people think of work-especially hard work as a negative thing, but we don't have to be those people.

The best writers or runners are not just born with incredible talent.  The people who become pros are people who figure out how to work at it.

"Genius is 1% talent and 99% hard work."
Albert Einstein

*Successful Learners see hard tasks as challenges...
...They see failures as opportunities to learn.

We have started to try techniques from our mentor text author in our own writing - this is a solid first step! 

Now if we really want to make our writing get noticeably better, we need to deliberately practice writing in the ways that you admire.

Today I want to teach you how to use your writer's notebook as a place to deliberately practice the techniques and skills you want to see in your writing.

*Imagine a basketball player practicing layups in a gym, or a ceramic artist practicing his craft at a pottery wheel.  Now, imagine yourself, practicing a writing skill.  Instead of using gym equipment or pottery tools, you use your notebook, and your notebook becomes filled with your efforts to do that one thing better, better, better, over and over.

Let me show you what I mean...

Jim Howe zoomed in on the small but powerful details that really capture big moments and feelings.

"Smoky is inside a big old pretzel can with a hose attached, clawing at the can's sides as my brother pumps in the gas..."

**Teacher's use an example from their own writing or use the example below**

 (Author has climbed a tree in a park even though her mother warned her not to)

"Don't look down, just keep climbing-you're almost to the top," Bobby urged. I swallowed and snuck one quick look.

First attempt:
Lydia was still standing at the bottom of the tree, holding my dark, blue sandals with one hand and shielding her eyes, with the other, as she looked up at me.

These are tiny details, but not something someone would notice who is high stuck up in a tree

Second attempt:
The tree swayed slightly, and I tightened my grasp on the trunk.  A rough piece of bark dug sharply into my forearm, but I didn't dare move.

"I think I need help getting down," I shouted, my voice high and tight.  I thought about my mother's clear warning to stay out of the trees that bordered the playground.  This must be why.

"Hold on, " Bobby called.  He circled slowly around the tree and then walked towards Lydia, talking to her in a low voice.  I couldn't hear him over the rustle of the tree's leaves.  Suddenly he grabbed Lydia's arm and pulled her away from the tree.  "Run!" Bobby commanded, and they made a dash for the gate.

Writers, the author here has really tried Howe's technique of zooming in on the small details.  To do that the author really had to put herself back in the park and replay the scene in her head.

Student *Courtney's* Example:
Courney noticed that Howe does little bits of explaining between the characters talking.  This is called narrating in-between the character's dialogue. Courtney worked on showing more of what she was thinking and how her mom was acting by adding lines.

Active Engagement:
Now it's your turn.  Choose a technique that the mentor author has used that you want to use more in your writing.  Practice that craft in several places in your notebook.  

This is where you will be using the back sides of your old narrative drafts.  Reread and pull out a sentence or two that you'd like to practice improving.  

Practice the strategy you want to try in as many places as possible.

Do it purposefully though! For example, don't just throw any old sensory details into drafts at random  places... add sensory details that make sense to the moment and the narrator's point of view.

Your notebook is now going to be a place to deliberately practice writing strategies and craft, not just a place to collect new drafts.

*Remember, have your narrative checklist close by as well as your mentor text.  These are your tools that will help you practice.  They should be right next to you and easy for you to use.
*Use the charts in the room as well!

Make a new goal for yourself in your notebook.  Write it down and put a box around it.  

Tonight- keep your goal in mind as you work your writing muscles.  You may need to start a new draft, or use your notebook to practice smaller bits of writing.

"Great writers are not born and great writing does not emerge with a magic 'poof'.  Great writers and great writing come from hard work and from the courage to keep trying.  Tonight, write with courage."

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Session 8 (Personal Narrative)

Session 8: Flash-Drafting

Connection:  Last class you were asked to pick a seed idea that you were going to take to publishing.  Then, you rehearsed your story with your partner in order to help you bring your story to life.  Today, you are going to try and capture the best of those rehearsals by flash-drafting.

Today you will venture outside your notebooks, working on clean sheets of paper to create the first draft of your story.  Your job will be to write fast and furious in order to get your entire story done today.  These first drafts won’t be perfect- they never are- but I’ll give you some tips for doing them in such a way that capture the truth of your small moment on the page.    

Tips For Flash-Drafting
  • Aim to get the first draft down, regardless of whether it’s your best writing or not
  • Relive the story in your mind before you start writing, remembering the best of your rehearsals    
  • Listen and watch as the story unfolds in your mind, trying to remember what you can’t quite recall
  • Work silently and intently, holding yourself to the highest of standards 

(Have students stand)
Active Engagement:  Take a moment to reread your story in your writer’s notebook and recall your rehearsals (story telling to your partner) and then give me a thumbs up when you are done.  
(As students signal, send them back to their spots to write their flash-draft.) 

Share:  To celebrate today’s achievements, you will share your flash-draft with a small group.  When it’s your turn to read, don’t start until you have everyone’s eyes on you.  Make sure to read it like gold with lots of expression.  When it’s your turn to listen, try to lose yourself in the story you are about to hear.  Try to see and feel this powerful small moment just as the writer tells it. 

Friday, October 14, 2016

Session 7 (Personal Narrative)

Rehearsing    Experimenting with Beginnings


Today is the start of the 2nd bend in the unit and your writing work is going to change. 

Writers, today is an exciting day! Today instead of generating new personal narratives, you will need to look over your collection of stories and choose just one.  

Writers often call that a...

Seed Idea

...meaning you will nourish and grow that seed idea into a published piece of writing.  

I'm sure it is daunting to wrap you mind around all you have written and choose just 1.  

This is the time when you have to really pay attention to the little voice as you reread-the one that whispers that there is just something about this storythat this story idea has the potential to become a really important piece of writing.  Remember, that does NOT mean that the personal narrative is already an incredible piece of writing.  It might just be an idea that you think you can develop into a powerful and meaningful story.  

Reread your notebooks and start to notice which stories could be your seed idea.  

Writers, please take  a paper clip and mark your seed idea.

Congratulations, writers, and welcome to your seed idea.

*Most writers don't just pick a story idea and then write the book; they get ready to write by rehearsing.

Partner 1: Tell the story that is your seed idea (DO NOT READ) I want to hear you using the same dramatic storytelling voice you use in the hallway, when something unbelievable has just happened to you and you bump into your best friend and tell them alllll about it.

Partner 2: Lean in and expect to get goose bumps! 

As you tell your stories, you start to figure out what you want to show about your characters and how you want to make your partner react to certain parts of the story......That is exactly why we might story-tell our story before we put it on paper.  

Tell your story about your bike accident.

Today I want to teach you that writers also rehearse for writing by trying  out several different leads.  

Writers, you know how much the first sentences or paragraphs of a story--what writers call the lead--matter.  The 1st bit of text on a page has a BIG job of grabbing the reader's attention, making the reader want to put everything else aside so he can just  read, read, read.  

Authors try out different leads, looking for the one that will set them up to write a great story.  

Look at our mentor author, Jim Howe, and see what he did at the start of 'Everything Will Be Okay' that makes his lead so powerful.  

Remember, whenever a story takes your breath away, that is your cue to pause and study the writer's moves. 

GOAL: to bring all that you can learn from your mentor text into YOUR own personal narrative writing.  

Show 1st page of "Everything Will Be Okay" on doc cam and read as students follow along.

ASK: What is he doing at the start -the lead- of this story that I can try?

The 1st thing I'm noticing is that he is right in the moment of his story, recalling and zooming in on those tiny details that must have actually caught his attention at the time: the missing fur, the leaky eyes, the stick-skinny body.  How must he have really replayed the scene in his mind bit by bit, to remember what he saw and felt at that time, for those details to ring so true?  

I also notice that, in his head, Howe has the narrator talking to the kitten in his mind, telling him how lucky he is and how he feels about the neighborhood kids.  This inner thinking, right at the start of the story, certainly pulls me into his world and makes me curious about him.  It makes me want to keep reading!


I think what is really powerful about his inner thinking at the start of the story is the way it allows him to drop some hints about what his story might really be about. 

When he is talking about how David & Claude can be mean, it seems like he is showing us that this is a lonely time in his life.  Right from the lead that the narrator could really use a little more love in his life-even from a scrawny, sick kitten.   

What I notice is that leads can pull us right into the story by including very precise details from the moment.  It looks like leads can also include the main character thinking in a way that touches on the heart of the story.  

Chart: Techniques for Writing Memorable Leads (pg 65)

Active Engagement:

Look at Howe's lead again as we reread it.  Get ready to to tell your partner one thing you noticed he did that you could try...

A quick share of findings and add observations to chart.  


 Remember, today I wanted to teach you that writers also rehearse for writing by trying out several different leads.  

Writers, when you go off to write today, try a few different leads:
  • dialogue
  • inner thinking
  • smallest details of the moment
  • precise character actions
Example Notebook Page of Leads

Share: Partners read your best lead  in your best storytelling voice.  Listen for how the writer grabs you and makes you want to hear the rest of the story.  

Choose the lead that you think would be best for setting you up to tell your story really, really well.  Does that mean you will need to write a couple more leads, to have more leads to choose from? Maybe you will.  Or maybe you may want to go back and reread 'Everything Will Be Okay' to see what other techniques you might try for starting a story.