Monday, March 30, 2009

slogs galore

We're in the "write a lot" stage of preparing to write memoirs.  Each lesson focuses on a particular literary element, such as the social environment of a story.  The lesson begins with...

1. a short journal "slog" writing prompt (i.e. at least five sentences; for previous slogs, I've given the option of making lists, but now I want sentences), about 5 minutes
2. pair share after the writing, about 5 minutes
3. voluntary class share, about 5 minutes
4. mini-lesson about the literary element, including a short reading passage to demonstrate the literary element, about 10 minutes
5. a second slog writing prompt and sharing, about 10 minutes.  Both writing prompts relate to the mini-lesson/literary element.

Originally I planned to read aloud from Jerry Spinelli's memoir, Knots in my Yo-yo String, and I've read a few chapters so far.  I've also found good passages from Dropping in with Andy Mac - the life of a pro skateboarder.  A colleague gifted me the Andy Mac book last year when we were both packing up to move our classrooms.

Despite initial moans and groans about "so much writing" each lesson, students are writing more readily!  We're going to enjoy a Dr. Seuss interlude the few lessons before Easter break (The Lorax to celebrate Earth Day), then we'll start drafting the actual memoirs after break (late April).

Monday, March 23, 2009

sun and ice, kinda nice

Still waiting for the real spring to arrive :p  We're given teasers, such as a week ago Sunday, pictured above, sooooo nice and sunny!  We were in the village of East Aurora, southern suburb of Buffalo, NY where this ice rink from the NHL Winter Classic 2008 lives "temporarily".  I'm not a skater, but my husband and daughter enjoyed a nice little skate before the ice turned mushy.

In the meantime, I concluded our Diary of a Wimpy Kid writing project and started a memoir project. We're just brainstorming and writing journals while reading excerpts from Knots in My Yo-yo String by Jerry Spinelli.  We'll also read from Sing a Song of Tuna Fish by Esme Raji Codell.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


I've been slacking on this blog, and I blame it on a late-winter slump.

My students finished the nature watching and writing part of the unit, and I changed the culminating assignment from poetry to... a choice of writing and submitting a Diary of a Wimpy Kid style diary entry to our local newspaper or writing and submitting (where?  still working on it) a poem.  In either case, they must use poetry elements or literary techniques, such as alliteration, simile, metaphor, onomatopoeia, etc.

Students are typing their work on notebook computers in our classroom.  Word processing is always an adventure with 6th and 7th graders!  Despite their claims of being familiar with computers (i.e. IM or games), they need a lot of word processing practice.

I admit that writing with these students who already "struggle" with reading and writing is like pulling teeth.  And I really don't want to be a dentist, but I feel compelled by their reluctance to MAKE THEM write MORE, not less.  I want them to stop using AVOIDANCE to cope with their insecurity or lack of knowledge or lack of skill or whatever, and just PRACTICE.  QUANTITY OVER QUALITY, because quality eventually shows up after MUCH quantity.  So our next unit is the memoir.  We'll read some together, such as Jerry Spinelli's Knots in my Yo-yo String, Walter Dean Myers' Bad Boy, and Esme Raji Codell's Sing a Song of Tuna Fish.

Yes, those readings will lead to student memoir writing, but I need a stronger hook.  They've already done illustrated writings, so I need something else... not sure what...