Sunday, November 9, 2014

Getting them Writing!!!

The second and third-graders of our district move from a personal narrative unit into a realistic fiction unit. Several lessons at the beginning of our current Realistic Fiction unit involve developing their character. They are supposed to draw their character, think about the inner traits as well as the outside characteristics. Then they are supposed to think about problems that their character could have. Basically, the curriculum gives students several days off of writing.

One of the second-grade teachers and I decided to try starting the unit off differently, presenting students with a circular anchor chart.

Then, I showed them how I had used them, introducing them to my character, Annie. Instead of thinking about the problems Annie could have, I showed them how thinking about the places Annie hangs out in leads me to think of stories about her. The chart that I am sharing I actually hand-wrote out, but I left it in the classroom, so I have typed a version out. What I wanted students to realize was that one character in one setting could lead to SEVERAL stories.

Since our second-graders don't have writing notebooks, I gave each student their own chart to fill out. If I had been teaching this lesson in third-grade, I would have had the students make a chart in their writing notebooks.

Then, as soon as one of the "troubles" called to them, we let them write! And they WROTE! What I realized was that the second-graders did not naturally get their characters out of the trouble or their solutions were far too complicated than their stamina for story-writing could handle, so we added a column to our chart during our mid-workshop interruption, providing our characters a way OUT of trouble:

One of my favorite stories was by a personal narrative struggler whose character couldn't find the right shirt at Justice. Another favorite that I watched come to life was about Sam who didn't like shots at the doctor's office. I have written about the power of starting with settings when you're trying to come up with ideas and again, I have to say, this strategy aims students at small moments with clear story arcs.

I don't want to sound like the stories were perfect, but I'm a big believer in volume. If I get a chance to teach this lesson again, I would remind students of the planning process that they learned during the Personal Narrative unit and encourage them to complete that step before starting to write their story. However, I strongly believe ( and have seen a lot of evidence that) when young writers write a lot of stories, the revision process becomes less of an event, and more of a continual practice.

Happy Writing!


  1. Melanie, I totally love this idea. I teach 6th grade and find that my students are great at developing the plot to the climax, but then the resolution and wrap up of their stories just isn't there ... it's like they run out of steam. We're just starting to write adventure stories to submit to a writing contest and this will be a great way for them to problem-solve for their main characters-I'll use in class tomorrow! Thanks!

  2. Do you have these pictures anywhere else? I would love to see them. Thanks!