A 4th grade teacher and I were experimenting with notebook entries during a unit on narrative writing.
One of the teacher’s concerns was the students’ selection of detail. It seemed they did not know which details were okay to leave out of their stories. She had noticed that students often included unnecessary detail, which resulted in “bed-to-bed” stories that lacked focus. How, she wondered, could we get them to write more focused narratives? And what types of entries could they make in their writer’s notebooks to help them with this process?
One of the instructional strategies we tried was to have them write their “hot spot” first. The hot spot is the climax of the story, the most exciting part, the crescendo. Before we wrote any of our other notebook entries, we wrote our hot spots. It was the first bit of writing we did after choosing our topics. This was a new way to enter into the narrative for us.
Here is my notebook entry from my imagined narrative about a Halloween when my two daughters actually became their Halloween costumes.
(The bottom of the page shows a revision technique. Choose one sentence, circle it, and on the bottom of the page, write 3 more sentences off of it to add detail.)
The results of having the students write their hot spots first were positive. After reviewing their final drafts, the classroom teacher and I noticed that:
- There were very few bed-to-bed stories.
- The hot spots were described with sufficient detail and specificity. We attributed the depth of detail to both writing the hot spot first and also the use of the revision technique of “Add 3 More” (seen in my notebook entry above.)
- The hot spot was easily identified by the reader.
We were pleased with the results. Writing the hot spot first is one way to enter into a narrative.
Literacy Coach, Reader, Writer