These past two weeks, students have been working on writing letters to their pen pals. Since I’m a firm believer in editing and adding detail, here are the steps we took to get to the end result.
Step 1: Brainstorming in class & sharing of ideas
We used this site to plan. In September, I am not expecting Grade 4 students to create their own web of ideas. Eventually, I will be expecting all students to plan their writing using a format of their choice but for now, we are doing it together. I plan on teaching them a few more strategies to do so this term.
Here’s what came out of our discussion. Please note that I’ve also written this information on the white board. We’ve since added and changed a few things but it more or less looked like what you see on this picture.
Step 2: Writing a rough copy
Students worked on paragraph 1 & 2 first, then added another paragraph a few days later. We worked on the conclusion together, during week 2.
Writing a conclusion is a big challenge for everyone. When I taught Grade 6/7, I also noticed that older students have a tendency to end things quickly. So that the reader doesn’t feel like he’s falling off a cliff, I’ve given them a few tricks to use and apply to their own letter. In this case, we’ve made a “menu” to choose from.
Here are some pictures of the work we did in class:
Step 3: Editing
Students used the CUPS method to edit their work. Click on this link for more info
Step 4: Giving feedback
I modeled this in class and once the exercise was finished, students worked with a partner and repeated what I did. To begin, we took one example (Bob is our “ghost student”) and came up with three questions to ask so that Bob could improve his writing. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture of the white board after doing the exercise. I’ve made up a new example here so you can understand what I’m talking about.
I’ve highlighted in red the part we chose to focus on. Notice that Bob likes to make lists and doesn’t add a lot of detail to his writing.
“J’aime jouer au hockey. J’aime aussi jouer au soccer. Quand j’ai du temps libre, je joue avec mon petit frère.”
These are the questions we asked Bob. I’ve highlighted in blue the added detail.
Question 1: De quelle équipe de hockey fais-tu partie? Je fait partie d’une équipe qui s’appelle Les Nordiques.
Question 2: Est-ce que tu pratiques le hockey régulièrement? Je pratique chaque mardi et vendredi matin à l’aréna et une fois par semaine, nous jouons contre une autre équipe.
Question 3: Es-tu passionné de hockey? Le hockey est mon sport préféré. Je le regarde même à la télévision car je suis un fan des Canucks de Vancouver.
This is Bob’s new version, following our feedback.
J’aime jouer au hockey. Je fait partie d’une équipe qui s’appelle Les Nordiques. Je pratique chaque mardi et vendredi matin à l’aréna et une fois par semaine, nous jouons contre une autre équipe. Le hockey est mon sport préféré. Je le regarde même à la télévision car je suis un fan des Canucks de Vancouver. J’aime aussi jouer au soccer. Quand j’ai du temps libre, je joue avec mon petit frère.
Step 5: Adding detail
Students added detail to their own writing by following someone else’s feedback (questions asked). There is still a lot of room for improvement but like any skill, it will take time for them to be able to do this properly. I’m hopeful!
Step 6: Publishing
This was the last step. After they added detail and edited the added parts, students were able to start writing their good copy.
What I’ve learned from this process:
There is obviously a lot more to teach than this but it’s a start. I would have loved to be able to correct everyone’s spelling but since ideas and detail are more important, I chose to keep the spelling part for later. I plan on photocopying and evaluating these letters using this rubric, found on the BC Ministry of Education website. Please note that at this point, my main focus is around “Style” and “Forme”.
What you can to do help at home:
Allowing your child to explore and learn how to use bubbl.us to brainstorm ideas. You don’t need to register to use this tool. However, if you don’t register you won’t be able to save your work in the end.
There are a lot more sites available out there (will share more with you later on this year) but I recommend learning to use one properly.