Planning Idea

I’m super fortunate to be working with a couple of third grade teachers (Hi Sandy & Dan!) who are interested in helping their writers to naturally develop more sophisticated writing processes. Their students are coming off of heavy illustration study in their previous writing experience (in grades k-2), so we are trying to find a way to nudge them into drafts with mostly words and still keep their identity and confidence as writers in tact.

One of the things we’re noticing is how they gravitate to creating elaborate covers. I think a lot of their envisioning and planning is wrapped up in crafting a cover. They are developing a title and an illustration that encompasses their entire book. As we move them into more traditional drafting, making a cover is postponed until later in the writing process. I’ve been thinking about how we can still empower them to continue the thinking they do while crafting a cover without actually crafting the cover. Here’s the planning page I came up with (and tried out for myself)…

One way for students to plan their upcoming drafts is to consider what the book cover might look like.

Here’s a blank PDF of the book covers plan for you to save and use (but only if it meets your students’ needs). It sometimes scares me to share this kind of thing because I think it’s easy to turn into a “gimmick.” Here is what I wrote to Dan & Sandy:

I’ve made a planning sheet called MY UPCOMING BOOKS. I’ve never done this before, but as I’m thinking about your students and where they are, I’m wondering if this will work as a way to plan.

 There are four boxes so students can create 4 covers for DIFFERENT stories they want to write. The cover should include a title + a picture that gives a clue about the story. I’d encourage students to think of different stories — not a series. I’d also ask them to have at least one story from their lives.
I’m thinking this kind of planning sheet will be good for a writer like A. He is so into the covers & it seems that a lot of his thinking is happening while he makes the cover, so maybe it’ll transfer to this planning page…but he won’t get so elaborate with it since it isn’t “the real thing.”

For us, this is a natural way to nudge kids into a more sophisticated writing process. They are getting ready to attempt drafting with more words than pictures, so this is one way to help them think through the stories they could write. By thinking through the cover  they have to envision the story as a whole, then come up with a title and a picture that encompasses the entire story. We also intend to encourage them to write more than one draft, so I think this planning sheet helps them get ready to draft more than one story.

This is the kind of thing older students could do in their writer’s notebooks. However, since these third graders are just learning to use their writer’s notebook “tool,” I think a separate planning page like this helps them organize their ideas a little more easily. They can then put this in their writing folder and even “check off” when they’ve written one of their stories. This way they are set to draft more than one story in a way that is straightforward. I imagine it would be very easy for writers new to understanding writers notebooks to get bogged down in the collect and draft, collect and draft cycle of the unit. I’m hoping this kind of planning sheet allows us (as teacher) to smooth out this pattern.

I’m super excited about this tool to help plan because it gets behind what students are already doing, but at the same time nudges them to do this work in a way that is closer to how more experienced writers work. As students mature as writers the way they plan (and draft and revise and edit and publish) is going to change. I like how this tool bridges the gap between making books and crafting drafts.