Friday, 16 September 2016

A Window into the Writer's Workshop

Students in grade 5 have been eagerly participating in Writer’s Workshop each morning. The beginning of the year has students writing personal narratives, focusing on small, but significant moments in the writer’s life. Each session starts off with the writers gathering on the carpet to learn and discuss a new strategy for generating writing topics and tips to help raise the level of their writing. 
Here, students are brainstorming writing topics by thinking about important people in their life and jotting down small moments connected to that person. Of course, Mom was at the top of the list.
After a short brainstorming session or introduction of a writing strategy, students move on to their desks where they write “fast and furious” to get their story on paper. As you can see, all eyes are on the pages, pencils are moving, and ideas are flowing freely onto the paper. The only pause comes as students take a moment to stretch out their fingers and massage their sore hands.
Students use their brainstorms from the carpet to write a flash draft of their story. Writing long and strong is one of the goals during this session.

After wrapping up a week of drafting their rough ideas, students were introduced to the checklist they will use to assess their own writing and set goals for the coming weeks. Through discussions and a quick assessment of one of their drafts, most students decided they needed to focus on strengthening the heart of the story- the moment when a character realized something important, or learned something about themselves. 

For homework, students reviewed the checklist and set a few goals and reminders for themselves. Students keep this in mind as they take one idea and develop it into an engaging, small moment story.  
Most writers agree, stretching out the heart of story is a worthy goal to keep in mind.

Students spent another session looking more closely at one of their drafts and asking themselves, "What is this story really about?" Students learned that sometimes, revising means starting over and approaching the story from a different angle. Perhaps the story starts at an earlier moment, or a later, or it includes flashbacks to help the writer get the BIG IDEA onto the page. 

As a way to help with this, the writers reflected on the emotional arc of their story. They started with the ending, thinking about the emotion, thoughts or message that should remain with the reader long after the pages have been put down. Then they worked backwards, thinking about the emotions necessary to help lead the reader to that emotionally satisfying conclusion. After that, they set about writing their story, keeping the arc in mind the whole time.

Have a look at a pair of examples.
The first character starts off nervous about the climb, is almost ready to give up, but then.....
The second writer tells a story of wanting to give up, persevering, and feeling proud at the end.

To wrap up the week, but not the unit, students conferred with a partner to discuss their story ideas and share how the story has developed and changed over the past few days. Once again, students asked each other, "What is this story really about?" They offered each other tips and suggestions as to how best get the story's true meaning onto the page.

Stayed tuned for the published pieces next week. Be sure to ask your daughter to show her first draft compared to the final draft.

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