Saturday, October 12, 2013

Now on Instagram!

I've joined in the Instagram love! You can now find me at Eberopolis on Instagram.

I started using it on Wednesday, so I'm still new, but I'm making it a goal to post something (usually) classroom-related every day. Be sure to follow me so I can find all of my teacher-friends who are already there!

Have a great weekend!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Are You Ready for NaNoWriMo?

I plan to encourage my students to participate in NaNoWriMo again this year. For those of you who aren't familiar, November is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short. It's the month where tell your inner-editor to hush so you can just let the ideas flow on to the page. It's about getting something done without worrying how perfect it is, because you can always go back and revise in December.

Last year, as October drew to a close, I introduced NaNoWriMo to my class. I explained the premise, and gave them the option of taking on the challenge. We talked about word count goals and commitment to writing outside of the classroom. Then the fun started. Student after student signed up, each cheering each other on as they dedicated themselves to writing a book. In the end, I think all but two students decided to participate. We had weekly lunch meetings where students could eat and share their writing with friends, and although not all students met their goals, they definitely started to find their voices as authors.

The Young Writers Program for NaNoWriMo has some great teaching materials to get your students psyched for NaNoWriMo and to teach them about narrative writing in general. You can check out their website at In addition, there's still time to order a NaNoWriMo classroom kit which comes with a student goal setting poster, NaNoWriMo stickers to track progress toward a goal, and buttons for those students who participate or finish. The classroom kit is free (and awesome), but they request a $10 donation for the materials -- a small price to pay to get your students excited about writing.

In honor of NaNoWriMo, I'll be hosting a month-long link-up that will start on November 1 and run the duration of NaNoWriMo. Whether your class officially participates in NaNoWriMo or not, I hope you'll join me in sharing the great writing work that's happening in your class. Grab the button, spread the word, and meet me back here on November 1st for a writing extravaganza!

In the meantime, check out the Educators' section of the Young Writers Project. I'm sure you'll find plenty to get you (and your students) excited for a month full of creative writing!

Who's in?

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Best Text for Teaching How to Write and Revise Leads

My fourth graders hate revision. They're often offended by the mere suggestion that they hadn't nailed the perfect lead to their stories in their first draft.

I'm used to this. I see it every year in writer's workshop, especially at the beginning of the year when we're writing in a genre for the first time.

And every time I see this, I become more determined to break them of this thinking.

Today, we were working on the Common Core State Standard W.4.3a - Orient the reader by establishing a situation and introducing a narrator and/or characters; organize an event sequence that unfolds naturally.

My favorite story to use for this is standard -- especially with fourth graders -- is The Teacher's Funeral by Richard Peck.

This book, set in a small Indiana town with a one-room schoolhouse, has the best opening line of a children's book ever.

If your teacher has to die, August isn't a bad time of year for it. 

Richard Peck keeps it going from there, building an incredible introduction. You can read the entire first chapter here.

Today, I started our writing lesson by reading this chapter to them. I have the Kindle edition of the book, so when I read it, I can project it on our ActivBoard so the students can follow along as I read. They laughed throughout the intro and were immediately hooked, begging me to choose this as our next chapter book read-aloud. Score one for the objective of "hooking your readers!"

I then asked them how many of them thought that introduction was the one that was in the first draft of his book.

One or two hands went up.

Richard Peck shared in an article called "In the Beginning" (Horn Book Magazine, September 2006, pp. 505-508) that it normally takes him 24 drafts of his lead before he's happy with it. TWENTY-FOUR!

And here I'm asking my students to take a second pass at their writing.

I shared that little nugget with my students before we reread the first chapter. As we read if for a second time, we focused on the characteristics of his writing that made it such a great lead.

Here's what my students noticed, compiled into an anchor chart:

Once we finished the chart, I had them go back to a piece of writing they've been working on and try to write a different introduction. Some students tried changing the point of view, others jumped into the action or started with dialogue. Whatever the strategy, all of them managed to produce a new version of their introduction, and all were at least a little better than what they'd started with.

We'll get this revising thing down eventually...

What are some of your favorite books to use to teach students how to hook their readers? I'd love to hear about them in the comments!

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