Writer’s workshop lessons are important for students to learn the craft of writing. I hope your young writers are enjoying the process of writing as they work through this writing unit. I have been receiving many positive feedback comments and emails from satisfied teachers about their students and how positive their experiences have been with implementing this program. Not only do teachers like the writing component but are thrilled that there is such a large literature component. A truly balanced literacy approach to writing and learning that covers all the writing skills.
This month’s writer’s workshop lessons will explore the world of personal narratives. Personal writing is a great first step to fiction. I have always found that my students are very single-minded when it comes to writing. If I start my year writing stories, that is what they become good at. If I start with personal writing, that’s what they become good at. It always seems hard for them to switch their writing focus. I wanted to find a way for them to learn about narrative writing and personal narrative writing without such a division between the two.
Memoirs of a Hamster
The writer’s workshop lessons for this month begin with introducing the narrative (with personal underpinnings). Memoirs of a Hamster is the 2nd book by Devon Scallion. (The first one was widely popular – Memoirs of a Goldfish.) I chose this one because many children in the 2nd and 3rd grades own hamsters or want to own hamsters so they will be able to make personal connections with this book which is important. Students will learn about a memoir and create timelines. They will also learn about setting and practice writing about different settings.
Our Tree Named Steve
I just can’t help but love the book Our Tree Named Steve by Alan Zweibel. I know I am not alone. It just takes me back to a simpler time. This book is also like a personal narrative but it is fiction. It is a wonderful story that introduces children to unconditional love and kindness and also loss and death but all in a gentle and guiding manner. Students will write about the passage of time. They will compare pictures of puppies and adult dogs or trees as they go through the seasons. Just how does an author write about the passage of time?
This becomes relevant later when students will then ZERO in on ONE small moment for their personal narrative. I have found this is easier to do when they can see the big picture first. Students will also learn about writing with emotion and how authors show don’t tell this. They will use emotional icons to retell the story in groups.
A Bear In War
The next story in the progression toward personal narratives is A Bear in War by Stephanie Inne. Oh my goodness! This is such a wonderful and compassionate story of war and compassion. This story is based on the true story of a little handicapped girl that sends her teddy to war where her Dad is fighting. Her Dad does not come back but her teddy does and it is now in a museum in Canada. Students will learn about perspective here. They will bring their teddy to school and write in the “eyes of their teddy”. What a fantastic way for kids to learn about perspective in writing before they write through their own eyes when they begin personal narratives.
The Darkest Dark
The last book and writing come straight from Chris Hadfield the astronaut. This is a personal narrative that talks about his “small moment” idea which is actually pretty huge in the minds of kids: the fear of the dark. It is a fantastic story about how Chris overcame his fear of the dark because his passion for space was larger than his fear of the dark.
Students will make a mini “fear foldable” that they create but don’t have to share. Then they write about their passions, what they love! Their “hopes and dreams” writing is then the platform that they use to combine two sentences to create sentence fluency in their writing. Students will then create a series of pictures that relate to one event in their life that they’d like to tell the story of and which will be their wordless story initially. They will choose ONE of those moments and that will become their personal narrative. Students will write their own personal narratives and have opportunities to share them aloud.
I really love how this unit evolved. Teaching writing can be hard when it is looked at as isolated writing. I love how this unit has such an ebb and flow of scaffolding ideas and I hope it will help your students to understand and enjoy writing personal narratives. This unit can be used at any time even though it has a “war story” in it. Unfortunately, that is a part of our life and if anything, it celebrates the understanding and compassion we should have for our disabled people and our veterans and soldiers throughout the yea