It really is unsettling to go to work but go to a different classroom to guide a different group of kids through a half-day of instruction and a half-day of testing. But I did it 2 more times for the Math PARCC. Then on Wed, I returned to being a 5th grade writing teacher!
I launched the Memoir Unit, using he brilliant ideas of Lucy Calkins and Alexandra Marron from their book Shaping Texts: From Essay and Narrative to Memoir. In Session 1, they suggest not telling what memoir is but instead, reading a memoir and noticing what is happening. "Today I am going to teach you that when you start a big writing project, it helps to read over work that is the sort of thing you plan to make."
So that is what we did on Wednesday. I gave out copies of Eleven by Sandra Cisneros and an organizer with 4 columns - 1) What this memoir is about 2) What writing structures are seen in the memoir 3) Evidence of each structure 4) The lesson or big idea of the memoir. I read it aloud, pausing to think aloud about the way she was writing this piece. "This first part sounds more like her ideas about birthdays and your age" and "Now this middle part is a story, a sad story about that red sweater" and "Again she is back to thinking big ideas about our age and how we are not just one age but all the ages before also." One wise student in my second period class said, "I think that last part sounds like a poem." And when I reread read it aloud, he was right. It sounded very much like poetry!
I told the class I still wasn't going to tell them what memoir was yet. For homework, I asked them to ask those at home what they think it is. See if they have read a memoir before. Keep thinking about Eleven and that tomorrow, they would read another memoir in small groups.
So over Thursday and Friday, I gave five groups of four students each in each of my four classes, a copy of a memoir. I used: Last Kiss by Ralph Fletcher, Car Trip by Jon Scieszka, All-Ball by Mary Pope Osbourne, Scouts Honor by Avi and a memoir from last Wed's Food section of the Washington Post about a guy with Leukemia who has friends that send him food while he has medical treatments. The first 2 stories were short so I purposefully gave them to the tables with kids who struggle more in reading. I also went to the public library and checked out 30 picture book memoirs. I knew groups would finish at different times so I had these available to read as groups finished their tasks.
The tasks were: read the story alone and fill in the information about memoir on the organizer. Then when all in the group are done, talk about it. Then make a chart to teach this memoir to the class. I reminded the groups that they are the only ones in the room that read this memoir so they need to first tell what it is about, show HOW the author structured the memoir, annotate the story on the chart with evidence of essay / story elements and then at the bottom of the chart state a lesson or big idea learned. I took our work form Wed and made a chart of Eleven to help them see what they needed to produce.
Then they got to work!! It was very quiet at first with all the reading. I went from table to table checking in, defining words, clarifying parts. Once all were done reading, they started discussing what it was about and the structures. Again, I circulated and guided them to think about structures. I also pointed out to some groups to be sure to teach ___, as their memoir is the only one like that. For example, Jon Sciezka's was the only humorous one so I reminded them to point that out when they taught the class. I asked Ralph Fletcher's group about the jellyfish part and why that was there. When they explained, he was comparing, I reminded that group to be sure they teach that to the class as that is a craft move in memoir we might want to try when we write out memoir. As class ended on Thursday, all had finished reading and were discussing and the two shorter story groups were beginning to make their charts. Friday, they arrived and got right back to work! ALL finished and most had time to read a picture book, too.
On Monday, I plan to have each group share information about their memoir using their chart. Then all in the room will have read Eleven and another memoir, listened to info about 4 more memoirs and may have read another picture book. Then as a class, we will co-construct the definition of memoir. With so many mentor texts of memoir fresh in our mind, I feel we will confidently write and try some memoir craft moves we learned about. Then on Tuesday, we will begin generating memoir ideas in our writers notebook! So far, I am enjoying this Memoir Unit!