Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Writing Realistic Fiction

My students are all busy writing their own realistic fiction stories. Students have thought up a basic story focused on a problem that is realistic. They have stretched out the problems to add more details.Then they began their stories with a focus on what makes a good beginning. That got us looking again at some of the realistic books we have read and analyzing how they began the stories. We then had a mini-lesson on making a "bridge" from the start of your story to your problem, how to develop the problem rather than just jumping right into it.

When I conferenced with students yesterday, I noticed that several had done a good job of stretching their problems out, but then went on to solve the problem in one or two sentences. They were not putting the same care into developing their solutions as they had in the problems. So today's mini-lesson focused on how we can stretch out our solutions. Students then worked on their solutions in their stories, conferring with their writing partners and conferencing with me, where needed. The stories are really starting to come together!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Soul Writing

Last Friday we took a break from our story work and did some "Soul Writing." In this kind of writing we go out and find a spot in nature, taking our writing notebooks with us. After a minute for each student to find a comfortable spot and settle down, we begin working in silence. First we notice what is around us. What do we see? What do we hear? What do we smell? What do we feel (in the sense of a soft breeze on a cheek or the grass tickling our legs)? It is an exercise in focusing on the present moment and the natural world around us. As the students notice these things they record them in their notebooks.

On Friday we sat in the area of the playground that overlooks the neighboring pond. A couple of large wisteria vines climb on the fence and into some of the trees. After we wrote for about 15 minutes, we gathered and those who wished shared what they had written. We enjoyed noticing when someone else had noted the same things we did.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Realistic Fiction

We have been reading and analyzing books in the category of realistic fiction. We include in that category books in which animals are the main characters, but they are like people and their activities are realistic for people. Examples of this are the Russell Hoban Frances stories and many of Kevin Henke's books, such as A Weekend with Wendell. We are making a chart that outlines the main problem in each book and the solution. As I often do, I am drawing ideas from Stephanie Parson's First Grade Writers.

Now we are starting to think up realistic stories of our own and tell them to our writing partners. Our work on considering books from children's literature has helped them develop a better understanding of this genre. Initially there was talk of stories about chimps going to other planets and Star Wars. Now they are talking about kids who lose their dog and children learning to play basketball. Soon each will choose one idea to expand into a story book that will be the book shared at our Authors Tea in May. For this celebration we will invite parents to hear the students' read their books.