Saturday, October 22, 2011

Halloween Writing: Harris Burdick

As some children began to finish their editing of their personal narratives, they shifted to our Halloween writing. I love writing workshop, but it takes a great deal of time and energy to develop a single piece. Our short Halloween writing unit is designed to have the students break away from the genre and the structure of writing workshop and write stories in any genre they can think of. The stories won’t be nearly as polished, but there is a lot of freedom in the unit that encourages both reluctant and eager writers alike to put their imaginations on paper.

The setup for our Halloween writing unit is this:

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Teaching Human Rights: A UN Day Lesson

Tomorrow is UN Day, so today I shared with my class one of the UN's most accessible documents: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

UDHR - Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires
It's tough for 9 and 10 year olds to internalize these rights and prioritize them. Enter STHGIR, an alien that communicates through the internet. I open a web browser to show the children a cartoon, but instead there is only this:

Friday, October 7, 2011

Roleplaying our Class RIghts

One of the jobs I offer in my class economy is called "Hollywood." The job of Hollywood is to of course make movies. It took me some time to flesh out the job description because, "Go out and make movies!" isn't nearly enough direction for a fourth grader. Around October of last year I had it figured out though. Intrinsic values and rights are a big part of our fourth grade life, so Hollywood's job is to turn our class rights- the rights we decided as a class at the beginning of the year that will support our learning- into short one minute promos. Last month, my two Hollywood employees (I also learned that having two is much more productive than having only one person in charge of making movies) wrote, filmed, and directed their first class right movie: "We have the right to be comfortable." They get a small stipend to pay any actors that want to be in their promo (since much of the filming has to be done durning a break time). Below is the result:

Teaching Small-Moment Personal Narratives

I love teaching personal narratives. I've been using Lucy Calkin's Writiing Workshop for five years, and each year I'm amazed at the way that my students develop as writers. I use a lot of exemplar texts, but one of my favorites is "Trapped In The Drive-Thru" by Alfred Matthews, aka Weird Al Yankovich. His song is not only a fantastic example of a small-moment story (a story that takes place in 15 minutes or less), but it's also a great example of using dialogue to tell the story. I first hand out the transcript of "Trapped in the Drive-Thru" to each student, and read it as a small moment story, pointing out the things the author does well in this narrative. As I read, I try to break up the rhythm so the kids actually don't know it rhymes. After I read it, I reveal that it is indeed a song, and we watch the video.

By the end of the lesson, the kids have a better understanding of what a small moment story is, but they also have a better understanding of how to use dialogue to enliven a story.
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