Estimated Reading Time: 2 minutes (458 words)
Primary Audience: K-8 Classroom Teachers
As the school year comes to a close, it’s often time for some fun in writing workshop, and suspense is an exciting element to include in any genre.
Why it’s fun: Suspense adds tension and energy to a piece. It makes readers want to turn the page, and it reminds writers of books they can’t put down!
The tools in this post can help you lead a small group about writing with suspense as soon as tomorrow.
What you need: Chart paper, markers, an annotated demonstration text (make your own or use the one provided below!), and writers who are ready to revise.
This could sound like…
- The Hook: “Writers, have you ever read a book you just couldn’t put down? It happened to me last night! I was so tired, but I HAD to keep reading to find out what would happen next! That’s because the author writes with suspense.”
- Explicit Teaching: “This chart shows three moves writers make when they want to add tension. I wrote a story myself, trying each of these, and I circled them. Let’s read my demonstration text together and think about how these moves add suspense.”
Why these moves are powerful:
Ellipses: Using three periods, or an ellipses, forces the reader to pause in the middle of a sentence. This pause helps to build the tension and anticipation of what might come next.
Repetition: Repeating a sentence or word throughout the piece also builds tension. Readers know that something is coming but… what? Consider how repeating a bit of dialogue or onomatopoeia could get a reader’s heart racing!
Add some thinking: When I’m anxious or scared, my thoughts start racing! If something big is about to happen to a character, chances are their mind is spiraling! Share these stressful thoughts with your reader- chances are, they might start to feel anxious right along with the character.
- Try it: “Now, it’s your turn to try writing with suspense. I invite each of you to choose one craft move from the chart that you can add to your piece right now. I’m here to coach you through it.”
- “Off you go!” “Let’s take a quick look at what you’ve added. In fact, I see something in this student’s piece that you could all try! As you go off to work independently, consider other places in your story where you could try some of these suspenseful moves. Here’s your own mini-chart (click below to download!) to keep as a reminder in your writing folder.”
Let’s Discuss: I’d love to hear how it goes! If you try this group or something similar, share some feedback or student work in the comments.
Go Deeper: Looking for some other ready-to-go small group ideas? Check out these TWT posts for more inspiration:
- In A Small Group in Action: Elaboration Strategies, Here We Come!, Melanie Meehan walks through a differentiated small group for writers with different elaboration needs.
- In Language-Focused Strategy Groups: Supporting Language Learning in Writing Workshop, Shawnda Fukano outlines a language-focused small group about homophones for English Language Learners.
- Lastly, check out Melanie’s Reminders About Small Group Instruction.
2 thoughts on “Try This SUSPENSEFUL Small Group… Tomorrow!”
Thanks for this suspense-filled lesson plan that I can pull up today when I review craft moves my students can use in a narrative story.
Let me know how it goes!
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