Sunday, October 25, 2015

Thoughts on my Narrative Unit, Term 1

I focused this unit on memoir. I posted these thoughts about it:

"Memoir is a window into life."                                                                   William Zinsser

"In writing memoir we select moments that reveal our own experiences of our lives."
Lucy McCormick Calkins

"Memoir is how writers look at the past and make sense of it."                      Nancie Atwell

"Memoir recognizes and explores moments on the way to growing up and becoming oneself, the good moments and the bad ones."                                             Nancie Atwell

To brainstorm I had the student make list of "Aha" moments in their lives. 
Some of them struggled with this, so I had a little helper list for them: 

  • What’s your earliest memory?
  • What is the most important thing that has ever happened to you?
  • What is the worst thing that ever happened to you?
  • What is something you will never forget?
  • What is the moment where you were 100% happy?
  • What was a time when you felt brokenhearted?
  • What memory shows something important about your family or your friends?
  • What was a time when you’ve laughed harder than you’ve ever laughed before?
  • Who was the biggest influence (positive or negative) on your life?
  • What have you done that you never thought you would do?
  • What was the greatest challenge of your life so far?
  • What do you wish you had done differently in your life?
  • Who do you wish you could see again?
Then I read and then they read several examples of short memoirs from this excellent book: The Moment: Wild, Poignant, Life-Changing Stories from 125 Writers and Artists Famous & Obscure. 

The one I picked to share was called "Chalk Face."

After we did that, I had the students pick a memory from their list that was 1. a slice of their life (a moment), 2. something they could remember enough of to describe adequately, and 3. a moment where they either learned something or their life changed course.

I didn't give a written assignment for this, but I think next year I should. It was more off the cuff because this year is made up as I go along, as it's my first year doing this.

After they picked the moment, we went into the writing lab and created a barf draft. I had them just get the story down as well as they could without worrying about how it sounded.

Next we focused on several things. I had them rewrite the beginning using several focused hook ideas. 

This was hard work, but all of them agreed that it made their writing better.

Next we focused on adding description, dialogue, strong verbs, and generally making better sentences. I used several resources that I found online. 

I didn't do this, but some great mentor texts to share at this time (with a document camera, which I don't have but which is a must have for next year, I think), would have started with Fly Away Home by Eve Bunting. Picture books are always great tools for teaching good sentences, as well written picture books have very carefully crafted and chosen sentences.

I would show the above version to students and then read aloud the version from the book (see version below). Then I would ask my students what they noticed about the differences between the two versions. Did they like the book's version better? Why?
Working together as a class, we would use the Adding Voice suggestions to see if the author used any of the techniques.
Then I would read Thunder Cake by Patricia Polacco, The Rag Coat by Lauren Mills, and Freedom Summer by Deborah Wiles to work through adding strong verbs, sentence variety, and figurative language.
Finally, we worked on making sure that we had a good reflection at the end. This is one thing I don't think I spent enough time on. I did have some examples for them, but I would go over this more next time.

At this point I did a peer review. I think the next time I do it, I'll have the peer reviewer take highlighters and mark dialogue with blue, thought and feelings with yellow, description with green, and to be verbs and has/have/had (weak verbs) with pink. Then I'll have them ask two questions and give one compliment and two suggestions for improvement. I didn't do a very formal assessment of the peer review, but I should have.

After the peer review they turned it in and I graded them. I had them submit on google docs, which does save you the pain of carrying around all those papers.

No comments: