Writing with Third Grade EL Students

Slice of Life #10

Today, after school I got to go over to a neighbor school in the district and give a model lesson with one of the third grade writing intervention classes.  (See http://wp.me/p3cml8-De  for photo essay).  I was nervous for several reasons, but also happy. The nerves come from not being with those writers daily (or even weekly) and feeling out of touch. Not knowing what exactly has been taught and what they’re ready to do next.

These are snapshots of 5th graders working with the checklists (student facing rubrics) to set goals for their writing.  I hoped to do that with the third grade, but they didn’t have them in folders yet.

I started the mini lesson with a brief, “Here’s what you’ve been doing so far.” To get a sense of what they were doing I asked them to popcorn out their bold opinion statement.

“Yay,” I thought, “they are doing personal opinions and care about their topics they chose.”  I had a picture on the board of glasses under the base word, ‘vise’ and wrote the prefix in a different color.  I made the  teach point that writers revise.  And one way they revise is by saying more.  They can say more by using ‘for example.’

I asked the dozen sweet writers sitting with me if they knew what ‘revise’ meant.  “Have you ever heard of revision?”  Heads shook negatively.  I was not surprised.

“Well!” I ventured, “revise means ‘to see again’ and it is what writers do when they reread their work, thinking, ‘how can I make this better?’  Revise is to rewrite, or write more to make your writing better. [note – I know that technically this skill is elaboration, but I am instilling a new, general idea — these writers have not had workshop or process writing until this month.  And revision strategy # 1 might be considering your audience, but they weren’t there yet.]

We stood and held an imaginary pen in the air.  “Listen,” I said leaning in.  “If you wrote something that sounds kind of blah blah, and you said something over and over — it happens to me when I write — and you didn’t like it.  You know what?  You don’t have to fix it up.”  I made the editor’s sign for delete in the air and said “delete!”  I briefly showed on the board how I could cross out stuff I didn’t really like.

They sat back down.  And here’s what we will try today: I modeled from my own writing (on why student should have choice in their writing) how I can revise by saying more.  “Revising is rewriting.  You can say more by finding places in your opinion drafts where you can write, ‘for example,’ and write in that paragraph.”  I wrote in the air my try at an example in my reason.

“Writers, can you look at your drafts now and see if there is a place where you want to write more by putting in an example.”  They began reading and marking.  I asked them to talk with their partner to explain what they would like to try out today in their personal essay.  “And give me a thumbs up when you are ready to go try that revision.”

They wrote.  The teacher and I conferred with writers and the time flew. I loved getting in close with the writers.  One was writing about how his family vacation was the best time ever.  He had to explain some phonemic spelling to me.  “Oh!  Jet skis!  I pantomimed and asked, “You rode on a jet ski?”  He smiled and nodded.

At mid workshop, I asked them to read aloud their work today to their partner and tell what they thought of their revision. And switch.  They needed a model in how to have the listener put his folder behind his back and the reader read her work like gold.

As usually happens when they hear their work, they rush back to their desk to say something else or change something. They had ten more minutes of writing and I closed with showing them the checklist, explaining how I had used it for my writing assignment today – from the elaboration line– and how  I use it to see the next thing is I want to work on.  I really need a conclusion for my piece.

Supporting two after school programs on opinion writing  has a story thread to it.  In addition to my learning curve, my narrative with colleagues and leaders has a theme.  Let students be authors and decide what to write!

RS gr 5 checklist 1








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