Saturday, April 25, 2015

Memoir Publishing Party - SUCCESS!!

I won't deny that it was wonderful to have Spring Break last week and that it was a little hard to return to school after a week off.

Well, not quite a week. I actually spent the first weekend completing grades and report card comments. I clocked the time again and it was only 10 additional hours from the 20 spent last Advisory. How did I cut the time in half? From the start of Advisory 3, I ONLY kept electronic notes! It was much easier to cut and paste since I recorded my observations/comments all quarter long electronically in a spreadsheet. Technology can cause me to work smarter and not harder!

Once back on Monday, I did an editing revision lesson based on seeing Mary Ehrenworth at TCRWP October, 2014 Saturday Reunion give a workshop on punctuation.

I used her slide:
Then I asked a student if I could use a part of his hockey writing and he agreed:

The take-away for the kids after our discussion of these 2 slides was that when we edit, we make sure to use punctuation and capital letters. But, now as 5th graders, we can step it up and try out different kinds of punctuation (like Mary did) and also try out different ways to vary our sentences to create a pace (like the 5th grader did).

We spent Tuesday finishing our annotations and printing another copy to hold and read from for the Publishing Party and then one annotated in the hallway.

Wednesday was Earth Day so we had only 30 minute periods due to our Walking Fieldtrip to pick up trash at the park in the neighborhood. I tried something new. I asked the students to reflect on their memoir and to specifically think about what they know they really worked on in structure, development AND conventions. Prior goal-settings, I had them pick ONE skill from any of the three areas and place their name ONCE on the classboard. This time I gave them 3 strips to write their name on and pick the 3 areas they were proud of for working on in this piece.
(The 1st period class is green, 2nd - blue, 3rd - red and 4th - orange. I am purple!)

I collected their memoirs and realized I needed to publish these as a class collection. They had worked so hard to combine all they knew about narrative writing and essay writing and had written amazing memoirs. I stayed Wednesday late and after the faculty meeting, I got the copiers going! After making a cover, I ran 30 copies of each for my four classes. The collections were btwn 30-40 pages each so I bought a stapler that can staple 60 pages and by Thursday night, I had a memoir book to distribute to each 5th grader at the publishing party.
I took this picture to show that thanks to Lucy's book, Shaping Text
four new memoir collections exist!!

On Thursday, we practiced for Friday by reading it aloud with a partner. Our partner was to listen and ensure that we used expression and used a loud enough voice. Then the listener practiced asking questions using the questioning cards. I modeled this first by reading my memoir with LOTS of expression and answering the questions from the comment cards politely.
I also asked who thought they would have a parent or grandparent come. I spent Thursday night (after stapling was done) making groups. I wanted to group the kids into 6 groups - 4 in the classroom spend out and then 2 groups in the hallway so we would be spread out and could hear the reader. And I wanted to ensure parents would be with each group. I prepared this handout for the parents because I wanted them to share a memory during the Publishing Party, too.
Friday was my favorite celebration yet!! WHY?
* I loved that there was time for each kid to read their meaningful memoir aloud.
* I love that so many parents/grandparents came (even my sister and mom came!)
* I love that the adults shared meaningful memories with their table group with many writing 6-word memoirs!
* I loved hearing students and parents say so many specific comments about how a writer crafted their memoir.
* I loved all the smiles each student reader had after they finished reading and sat and listened to their table group talk about their writing.
* I loved that the table groups started to sound a bit like a book club discussion...and the "book" was something written by one of my powerful!!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

I'm on SPRING BREAK...finally!

I changed school systems this year. For the past 20 years, my spring break was always the week before or after Easter. This year, it is now - a full week beyond what was a late Easter. So I am feeling ready. I do think that as a teacher, you get used to pushing through, knowing a break is in site. Sadly, my first day of break,, yesterday, I awoke at 5:30am and went to Starbucks with my computer and spent 5 hours completing the 3rd Advisory report card comments. They are due the Monday we return from break and I was determined to enjoy my break and not spend it doing school work. So now comments are done! Grades are inputted into the online computer program! The week back is planned with time to edit our memoirs and a Publishing Party on that first Friday back. And then plans to teach Poetry! So, yes, on this Sunday, I AM feeling like I am FINALLY on Spring Break.

Looking back on the week, I LOVE teaching memoir!! I am using the 5th grade Shaping Texts book in Lucy's new Units of Study for Teaching Writing. On the resource disk is a great 3-column checklist showing the skills for narrative, essay and memoir. I personally used the memoir checklist to figure out how to write my memoir.
I read the under STRUCTURE how the lead should go and then wrote my lead. I then looked under DEVELOPMENT and read how my evidence of my idea can be a micro-story. Then I wrote my micro-story. Then I looked under STRUCTURE to see how the conclusion could go and wrote my conclusion. And I showed my students in a mini-lesson each day how I did these 3 steps and then they got busy typing with their checklist nearby.

When I attended the TCRWP Saturday Reunion, I heard Shana Frazin give a a workshop and modeled a revision inquiry lesson. So I channeled her on Thursday and led my class through the lesson just as she did during the workshop. (Click HERE and scroll to #4 to read about Shana's workshop) My kids gave responses just as expected. At the beginning, revision was generally described - "fixing it up", "making the story better" . At the end, they were specific - "adding reasons, dialogue", "adding inner thinking, slower pace, description, dialogue, actions and reasons". I loved how, through inquiry, we defined revision and then got busy revising!

We had started this unit by reading and annotating memoirs. That got me thinking that now we have written a memoir - why not annotate it?! So I had the early finishers on Friday begin to tape their memoir to colored construction paper and use markers to annotate it. They enjoyed this colorful step and I plan to hang them in the hall for others to see.

Their memoirs are really brilliant! These 5th graders, who have been in writing workshop since Kindergarten really are amazing writers. And then really can look back on their long life of 11 years and notice a pattern and a lesson learned. And they can write strong micro-stories as evidence of their big idea. So fun! I decided on Friday that I will compile these stories into a class book and spend the time to make the xerox copies. The kids will enjoy getting this as a gift. I am not sure if I can get the copies made for the Friday Publishing Party but I am going to do it. They deserve to be a part of a book of memoirs!

A final lesson I shared related to the TITLE. I am familiar with the webiste - 6 Word Memoir
I suggested that the students think about a title and push themselves to say it in 6 words, maybe try on a few titles and pick one. Here's Rachel doing this...which title do you like best?!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

It"s April!

What a week!!

Monday we took a break from Memoir because we got letters from our Pen Pals in France! I let the classes have the class period to read their letter and start to write back. The letters we got had photos and drawing included so I made it homework that the students would also draw or get a photo from home and add a caption. Monday's engagement in writing and creativity shown through words and pictures is strong evidence of how important authentic writing is. Because a student in France was going to read this letter and we had a letter asking us questions to respond to, my writers on Monday were so engaged and wrote long and strong and took time to spell correctly. Monday was a fun writing day!

Tuesday we took a break from Memoir writing because it was the last day of March and we were celebrating that I wrote every day in March as part of the TwoWritingTeacher's March Writing Challenge. More about that celebration is posted HERE.

Wednesday we got back to Memoir. I LOVE TCRWP!! The 5th grade Units for teaching writing workshop kit disk had a document that listed the checklist for narrative, essay and memoir in one grid across three columns! I took this and pasted the narrative and essay columns with skills listed to construction paper. I then cut up the memoir skills and placed them in an envelop. When classes arrived on Wed, I gave each table the construction poster and an envelop. Then took turns reading the skills for memoir writing and together decided where the skills went - under structure, development or conventions. I liked that all took see again how memoir is a combination of narrative and essay since the skill cards they were reading showed this. Then they spent the remainder of class rereading entries to see patterns across stories so they could pick their memoir idea and the storied they could tell as evidence of this idea. I love the MEMOIR CHECKLIST!!

Thursday, I modeled how I decided to write my lead. Since I honestly wasn't sure but I now had on my checklist what a lead is in memoir, I decided to look at the 6 mentor texts we had read. I typed up all 6 leads. During the mini-lesson, I read them and asked, did this author write a lead based on our checklist (I gave each student a checklist that just had the memoir skills on it)? Each time we could see how that author was stating an idea and was talking about their life and some were foreshadowing the story to come. Then I shared my lead and a plan of where I'd go next and my co-teacher's lead and a plan of where she'd go next.

Then I sent the writers off to write their lead and plan in their notebooks. Once it was there, they could go get a computer and start typing fast and furiously. As Thursday ended, most had their lead typed. Many had 2 paragraphs typed. All agreed to live with their memoir plan over the long weekend (no writing class on Friday due to half-day and no class on Monday as no school). On Tuesday, I plan to remind them of the process - writing a lead and then developing the stories as evidence for the idea. I plan to show them how I have drafted out my memoir. Then tell them to get busy typing!! That draft needs to get into the computer so the fun time of revision can occur!!

The plan is to revise next week - then have Spring Break - then have time to edit - then publish on Friday, April 24th. I got the idea to invite parents and grandparents and have them bring a memory with them, too. On the flier announcing the Memoir Publishing Party, I added:
Visitors are encouraged to complete this sentence to share:
“Looking back, I remember ___ and I realize now that _____.”
OR share a 6-word memoir (
I am loving this memoir unit!!