It may appear that I'm slacking off of my "Keep a Blog as my New Year's Resolution," but I really haven't been.  Honest.

 The NNWP has me on a tight deadline for having our newest 300+ page print resource to the editor this month so it can go to the printer in early March.  The Guide--"Show Me Your Story"--focuses on narrative lessons and teaching strategies, especially aimed at 3rd-5th grade.  The fourth grade section is now completely done!  Woo-hoo!  Coming soon (to the editor) the 3rd and 5th grade section.  This is what I have been working on.  See?  Not slacking!

Let me share from the now-completed fourth-grade section for the new guide.  Here's a link to one of the pre-writing lessons that will appear both online and in the guide:

This is a pre-writing lesson that teaches skills necessary to narrative writing.  It focuses nicely on three of my seven elements of a differentiated writing lesson: graphic organizers, student talk about student samples, and  student choice.

Take a few minutes to explore for those three elements in the thorough online write-up.  Did any new ideas occur to you?

I've been doing demonstration lessons with fourth graders this last week; tomorrow, I start working with the sixth graders for samples.  We're gathering student samples to be used as discussion tools in the NNWP's new Narrative Writing Resource, which comes out this March!  It's going to be a fantastic new resource guide.

The prompt I was working with when I met with the fourth graders (see the video in the previous post) was "If you could give a special award to a deserving person, what would it be and why would that person deserve the award?"  I ran the event as a little "contest," saying the winners would be featured in the new guide, which was a great motivator.
I got great samples from such a wonderful group of kids; I am sure showing them the video long before they began writing was really instrumental in receiving so many fun samples.  I'm adding this technique to my bag of tricks.

Here's one we didn't select as a "winner," but it's one of my favorite samples from the bunch.  I love Kaya's introduction more than anything.  :-)

The Best Male Writing Teacher Award
by Kaya, fourth grade writer

Have you ever thought that you’ve met the best male writing teacher in the world, and your friend thought the opposite?  Well, that’s called an opinion and this is my opinion on who the best male writing teacher in the world is…Mr. Harrison. 

The number one reason that I’d give the award “Best Male Writing Teacher in the World” to Mr. Harrison is because he gives great ideas to grown ups and kidsas well.  Once in Mrs. Espinosa's Class, he gave great ideas on what to write about for this awards assignment, which is what I’m writing about now.  He even has this website that teachers can go on to find a fun assignment for their classes.

The second reason Mr. Harrison should get this award is that he goes over a lot of ideas in his head before he decides what he is going to write about.  Like the time he wrote about four characters he wanted to put into stories.  He spent a long time just thinking about what their names were going to be.

I’d give this award to Mr. Harrison because it's my opinion on who the "Best Male Writing Teacher in the World" is.

Thanks, Kaya...I think you've got a charming writing style, and you know how to choose a great topic.  What advice would you give this young charmer for making her next draft even better?

I'm working hard on creating some final lessons to be featured in the NNWP's new print resource: Promoting Deeper Student Thinking while Teaching Narrative Writing.  The guide will be finished this month so that it can go to both the editor and to print in March.

Many of the materials in the guide are oriented towards our Nevada fourth and fifth graders, since fifth grade is when our students are tested on narrative writing.  One of my issues with our state test is that it provides very little time for students to do proper pre-writing, which leads to very basic rough drafts being written; add to that the fact that most of our teachers don't prepare students to revise authentically, so when the students are given a short amount of time on the test to revise, they really do little more than add a few descriptions and write their rough drafts neater.  What gets submitted to our state test for scoring is more-often-than-not polished rough draft writing.  A polished rough draft--on its best day--barely passes the writing test.

Our new guide really focuses on teaching students to practice pre-writing and revision strategies well as they write to state-test-like prompts.  If students are well-practiced at genuine pre-writing and authentic revision, they will write better samples, even if they're given a limited amount of time to do these two tasks on the actual test.

And so...I did a demo lesson last week that focused on pre-writing for one of our fourth grade practice prompts; this lesson will be featured in the new guide.  Before I even came to work with the students for the two days I was scheduled, I sent them two videos, which forewarned them of the topic they'd be writing to, and asked them to start doing some thinking that would help them fill out the graphic organizer I'd be presenting them with.  Here is the second video I sent them to watch on their classroom's Smartboard.

Click here to see the whole video I sent the kids.


The writer's notebook page that I show in the video looks exactly like the graphic organizer I handed them as soon as I entered the class.  I couldn't believe how many of them were "raring to go" because they had watched both videos.  The graphic organizer was filled out very well and quickly, and that led to much better rough drafts from those kids.  I pick up their revised drafts this Friday, and I plan to post some of them here at the blog.

Here is the lesson on-line, where you can access the graphic organizer and other materials I used to with the students.