Writing is often the most challenging subject to teach, but it can also be the most rewarding. When your students are having trouble organizing their thoughts or adding details to their work and they all want your help at the same time, you feel like a rubber band being stretched to its elastic limit. But when they really "get" a concept you've introduced in a mini-lesson and confidently apply it in their own writing, it's enough to make your heart melt.
Today was one of those days when everybody "got" it. After learning all about the elements of personal narratives using the fabulous mentor texts in the Being a Writer program and learning how to narrow down our topics during a "small moments" lesson, we were ready to master the use of a strong hook to grab a reader's attention.
The lesson started with a scavenger hunt. The kids scoured the books in our classroom library looking for opening sentences they liked and recording them on Post-it notes. Every student had to find three opening lines they admired and "park" them on the whiteboard. When everyone was finished, we met on the carpet and read through the posts. As I read the opening lines from the Post-its aloud, I started to rearrange them on the board. Eventually, my students realized I was making categories. I had rearranged the openings according to their function. The children evaluated the Post-its in each group, and we labeled each type of opening. Together, we created the anchor chart pictured below.
My students were chomping at the bit by this point. I could practically see the gears turning in their heads as they thought about creative ways to begin their own personal narratives. There was total silence in the room for the next twenty minutes as the children tried to come up with several different openings for their own personal narratives. I call that uninterrupted silence "one of the most beautiful sounds in the world", because it's a true indication that everyone in the room is totally immersed in the task at hand. All 25 students in my class, including the 10 with identified learning disabilities, are all feeling competent and successful at the same time. When it happens, it truly is a beautiful thing!
When writing time was up, we came back together on the carpet where the children first shared their work with an assigned writing partner. Then several volunteers shared what they came up with, with the whole group. I heard things like "Plop, plop, plop.", "She's the apple to my pie and the sun to my shine.", "How does one little acorn become the start of a battle?", and "There's a big shop down in the enormous basement." If I had closed my eyes while my students were sharing, I could have forgotten I was sitting in a circle of 10 year olds. I can't wait to hear the stories that follow the intriguing hooks I heard today.
their personal narratives