I looked over the released questions for the new nationwide state test (we are taking the SBAC) and saw that the kids will be given pictures to write stories about, graphic organizers to write stories about, and prompts to write stories about. STORIES. Not lists of things. Not what what they see. Actual stories.
Can you say DAUNTING???
Yeah...I am a little overwhelmed by it all too. I mean, I had gotten so good at teaching the kids how to find evidence in the text, eliminate answers, and basically take a multiple choice test. But now they are going to have to write their ideas. So, I need a new plan.
I took a hard look at what I was doing already and decided a little tweak was in order. I took what we had learned about Plot, Setting, Character, and Conflict, as well as what we were already doing in Paragraph of the Week, and decided to combine it all so that the students could use the ideas to write clear, coherent STORIES.
At first, the kids tried to write lists of things they saw in the pictures. They wanted to tell me that the man was running. That he was wearing a shirt. That other people were there. But that isn't a story. So I asked the kids to give the man a name. Tell me where he was. Describe what he was doing. We brainstormed it all. Then, I had them go write again about the man.
I would love at this point to say that my mini-lessons and discussions on this throughout the week resulted in an awesome fictional narrative....but it didn't. The kids were still writing lists.
So the next week, we focused on the conflict. What was the problem? How could it be solved? After a week of this, the kids had more and more elements of an actual story in their writing.
We kept at it. I gave them 4 weeks of pictures to write about, then 4 weeks with a partially filled in plot diagram. Each week, we did mini-lessons on topic sentences and introducing characters. We talked about how the problem comes to a head in the climax. We discussed the resolution and how you can't leave the reader hanging.
And it finally clicked! I can honestly say that now my kids are writing stories! Real, honest to goodness stories. There are beginnings and middles and ends. It all (for the most part) makes sense. The stories have characters and setting and conflict. They are true stories and not lists! I have never been happier with fiction writing that is taking place in my room. I am LOVING reading their writing like I never have before. I am so so so excited by this all.
How do you get the kids to write fictional narratives in your room?