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!