Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Paragraph of the Week

I don't know about you, but it seems like writing always gets the shaft in my room.  I start off every year with this grand scheme to make sure my students write daily, yet when something needs to go off of my schedule, it always seems that this subject is the one on the chopping block.

Honestly, it just isn't fair to my students.  They will not become better writers unless they are actually writing.  So what I started to do, to ensure that they would write daily, was begin a Paragraph of the Week.

The basic idea is simple.  The students are given a prompt to write a paragraph about and they have the week to do it at home.  However, I knew that if I just gave my students a prompt and let them at it....all heck would break loose.  They *needed* some scaffolding and a bit more accountability to decent sentences than that. 

So I thought and thought about what I do to teach a basic paragraph in my room. I always start off with a brainstorm/pre-write.  It gets the juice flowing and gives the kids a lot to pull from when narrowing down their topic. So I made sure that each week, they start with a prewrite.  We use Thinking Maps, so the students begin on Monday by filling in a Circle Map on the topic at hand.




Then, and here is where I may differ from many, I have them write the body sentences.  I just feel like they get a better paragraph if they start with the middle and work their way to the frames of the topic/closing sentence.  They don't get so boxed in....or give it all away....when they leave the topic sentence for last (and when brainstorming and prewriting our multi-paragraph essays, this is how I do it as well, so it only made sense to me to have them write a small paragraph this way as well)  I also have the students write a supporting detail sentence and then another sentence with evidence or explanations of that original sentence.  Again, this gives the students a chance to really add pizazz and life to their writing.

I actually have my students color code the sentences as well.  This helps them with organization (especially when we get to multi-paragraph essays).

Wednesday has them writing their topic and closing sentences.








They then put it all together for Thursday. 


What I am loving about this is that my students now have a body of work that we can pull from for our writing mini-lessons.  They have actual authentic writing to revise and edit in class.  What I am also loving is that it is forcing me NOT to let writing slip away.  I have time built into my day each day to do a little mini-lesson because I know that they will be doing writing at home.  The last thing I want them doing is practicing BAD writing....so I am doing so many more mini-lessons....and their writing is getting SO SO SO MUCH BETTER.  SO MUCH. 

We have taken a few of the paragraphs to final draft publishing, now that they have a bunch of paragraphs to choose from.  I am finding that this is also turning into a great record of their writing growth throughout the year.

And I have put all of this together in a HUGE 200+ page packet for you.  There are 36 different writing prompts, with all the scaffolding you see in the first 18 weeks.  Then the second 18 weeks switches the focus (which I plan to do in my room) to revising and editing with rubrics and checklists and all.  The pack also has a one page explanation of the weekly task in case copies are a problem (I know, I know...I love copies)  Anyway, if you would like the entire pack with everything done for you, it is available in my TpT store.   The preview download actually has one week in it for free so that you can see if this is a fit for your room.  I really, honestly am in love with this right now.  I see SUCH a difference in my students, and I am sure you will too.

11 comments:

  1. Writing definitely gets the shaft! Last year we wrote 1 story per 6 weeks. This year, I'm doing the same and we're publishing a book using Student Treasures. If you want to know more about that let me know. They have a referral program.
    dfrideley@gmail.com

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    1. That sounds interesting. I am going to have to check it out. Just google Student Treasures?

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  2. I like your idea of having the students write the body of the paragraph and then add the topic sentence later. I am going to have to try this.

    The REAL Teachers of Orange County

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    1. I really find that it helps the kids to keep their focus narrowed down, but not too boxed in. When they write the topic sentence first, they tend to write things like, "My favorite subject is math because I like decimals." Well, they inevitably want to write about how they like to do fractions and their favorite math lesson was with food...but none of that has to do with decimals, you know? It just gives the kids so wiggle room (in my opinion)

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  3. One of our teachers uses Step Up To Writing, and has her kids color code sentences. Is that where your color coding comes from?

    I love this idea. Even with my kids for 100 minutes, writing seems to get the shaft in my room, too (7th and 8th graders for me!)

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    1. I did! I never used Step Up, but a few years back (maybe 7???) I saw something online about it and LOVED it...so the color coding stuck.

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  4. Totally just had the "writing gets the shaft" convo with my team today!! I've been trying to get better at incorporating more writing into my science/social studies time. This is an awesome idea though, I would even use it at the end of the day before we clean up! Thanks for sharing this idea!! :)

    YoungTeacherLove

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    1. Thanks! I hear ya on getting it into soc/sci. Seems like we need to get it in anywhere we can these days! Glad I am not the only one who struggles fitting it all in :)

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  5. I hear ya! I cannot fault my students for not progressing in writing if I'm never giving them authentic opportunities to practice and improve!

    I definitely agree with starting in the middle and expanding out. I have such a tough time getting my kids to write quality introductions and conclusions. It's bogs them down to start with that, so we work on our body paragraphs first and then tackle the introduction and conclusion.

    Excellent idea - thanks for sharing :)

    ~Jessica
    Joy in the Journey

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  6. This sounds great! I have only taught "grammar" so far this year to my 5th graders (in isolation at that!). My plan was to begin writing with them after Thanksgiving break, but I have been panicking for the last 3 days about HOW to begin! I think this will so work for me. I needed something systematic since my kids in previous years have only really done journal writing with not that much teacher modeling or guidance. (I think)

    Thank you so much for all of your great ideas!! I'll definitely be coming back to your blog when we get to the AMERICAN REVOLUTION! :)

    Shannon
    http://www.irunreadteach.wordpress.com

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  7. I know this post is old....but I finally bought this set and introduced it to my kids today. I won't do it as homework because I know it wouldn't come back (or it'd come back crappy) so we're using it as a "when I'm done" sort of activity. We are not allowed to skip writing--it's a huge deal in our district (science/ss get the shaft where I'm from which is so sad!). Anyway I'm SO glad I bought this. I love it.

    Today when I was first sharing it with my class, I said "so how many of you know Calendar?" (all hands up), "how many of you know the math homework?" (all hands up), "well guess what, this is from the same wonderful teacher" and one of my boys says "Thanks lady I don't know!" It was totally hilarious and cute.

    I really enjoyed using it with my students today! They get so stuck on what to do if they finish the writing assignment (kind of scripted in some ways in our district which is a bummer because it makes it boring) and the students loved that they got to think about the topic their own way. My hope is that they will always turn to this when they are finished so that they can apply what we've done together in class to make paragraphs about something more interesting/meaningful to them.

    Again, I just need a sign that says "My room brought to you by Mrs. Moorman" :D

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