I know that the summer I spent with my daughters didn’t include a lot of academic talk, and their first couple of days were spent getting back into the groove. “I have to remember how to think like a student again,” one of my girls eloquently said. Brainstorming with one of the third-grade teachers in our district, we talked about how to jumpstart writers and get kids moving. She and I talked through an activity where students would move from chart to chart in groups, answering some of the following questions:
- What are some important writing behaviors?
- What are some fun summer writing topics?
- What are important features of a story?
- How do you plan for writing a story?
- What does it mean to revise and edit a story?
We could have added more questions, depending on what we wanted to know, but we liked these. As you can see from the charts, so did the students! On a HOT day, just before lunchtime, on the FIRST day of school, they were able to generate many answers to these questions.
Whenever possible, I love to see student writing on charts. They know exactly what they’ve written! This exercise is especially engaging because they were not supposed to write ideas that were already on the chart. Therefore, they had to do some close reading and thinking about what the ideas were that someone else already shared. They could extend the thinking, but not duplicate it.
Without question, this activity gave their teachers some important information about their students. How do they work together? What do they know about the writing process? What sorts of repertoire can they generate? Do they learn and extend their knowledge from looking at the work of others?
Tomorrow, these charts will hang in the classroom when the teachers ask their students to write their best stories. They will serve as tools of independence and reminders to students of the knowledge they already have about writing stories. If someone can’t think of a topic, there’s a chart to visit. If someone finishes early, there are strategies for revising and editing.