Friday, September 20, 2013

Our Writing Expectations!

Today we continued our focus on narrative writing by using our planning sheets from yesterday to dig into writing a quality draft.  Before we started, I wanted to continue to raise the level of quality in our writing. As in most classrooms, I have a huge range of writers in my classroom--both in terms of skills and motivation.  I have working hard to "paint" a picture of what 4th grade writing needs to be, so we have been studying anchor papers to see what we can discover about quality writing!  I started by sharing this anchor chart that I made with them:

This idea of "apply new learning" was SO new for them!  They hadn't really considered that when we do a minilesson, I actually then expect to see them try it!  Seriously!  That was news for them!

We talked about each and every one and how they will help them improve as writers.  We then reviewed what we had done yesterday with our organizer for our narratives, and we reviewed THEIR planning sheets.  I asked them to meet with a partner and "retell" their story and make sure they had enough "enriched details" (I cannot lie...some of my students STILL wrote sentences inside the box and no details outside...their drafts are then essentially those sentences copied over again.  Sigh.  We will try again next week.)

I reminded them of our bulletin board of expectations and read through them before getting to work...

Here was one student sample of their planning sheet.

After they retold their stories, I asked them to help me write the first scene of MY story.  We came up with 3 or 4 ways to say the exact same thing . . . and they were all a version of

I got home and the garage door was up.


After work I got home and the garage door was up.


It was a scary day when I got home and the garage door was up.

They were all pretty satisfied until I showed them MY writing of the first "scene" of my narrative.

This rocket scientist didn't realize she cut off the top few sentences.  Sorry.  I think you get the picture . . .

You should have heard the "OHHHHHHHHHHH!  That's just like the STORY you told us!"

And there we go.

So . . . I sent them off to tell their stories.  I reminded them about how I used my planning sheet to keep focused on on topic--and I even showed them the trick of "checking off" the ideas you put into your piece.

They dug in and got to work, and after about 20 minutes of writing I stopped them and had their share at their tables about what they had accomplished so far.  It is Friday, you know, so I did provide them with a little motivation since their writing stamina isn't great yet!

They worked and shared and worked and shared.

Overall I heard students saying things like "This is the best piece I've ever written!" and "If I don't finish it, can I take it home?" and "This was way easier than it used to be!".  I'll take that as a success.  We are going to repeat the process on Monday and Tuesday (Planning on day one, drafting on day 2) and then they are going to pick their favorite of the two to do a little extra work (ie. revising and editing!) at the end of the week.  Don't get me wrong--these are NOT perfect!  I am just super excited that they were more willing to write, produced more, and seemed more positive about investing 40 minutes in actually writing!  Stay tuned--and Happy Friday!

UPDATE:  Several people asked me about whether or not this lesson was available on TpT.  It wasn't, but it is now!  If you want the blog post to print out, a ready-made graphic organizer, the anchor charts in full page posters, and a scoring rubric--check it out!  Click here!


  1. Did you give them a particular prompt that they needed to write about?

    1. I did not, Penny. We had spent some time generating lists of ideas...funny times, embarrassing times, scary times, happy times, times with family, and so on. They selected one of their favorites from these lists. Hope that helps!