Timetable of a Unit: Days 1-7
On the FIRST day of class, have students write a narrative in 45 minutes (can adjust the length, but should still be a good chunk of time.) Score this piece on the rubric you will be using throughout the year. Find the appropriate rubric in the "green book." Do this same formative assessment 2 months later to gauge progress. Also score published work; published work should only be 1-2 levels above independent work (an analogy would be the difference between guided and independent reading levels).
DAY 1-2: Generate entries in writer's notebook - students CHOOSE what to write about!!
DAY 3: Teach how to write well in this particular unit.
- ex. first qualities of writing that are easy and have big payoff: focus (going from watermelon story to seed idea) and detail. Need to teach the difference between summary and storytelling -this is complicated. Teach students to write a story across only 20 minutes of time. This avoids the "bed to bed" and "Fiddler on the Roof" (sunrise/sunset) stories.
DAY 4: Have students choose one seed idea from their collection of entries - note: all students are writing on topic of choice as they chose from their own entries.
DAY 5: Help students rehearse the strategies you are focusing on in that unit such as timelines, leads, internal vs. external etc. Students "try out" these strategies in their notebooks.
DAY 6: Spend ONE WHOLE day to draft. Remember drafts should be written ALL in one day. It is fast writing knowing there will be plenty of time for revision. This helps writing to be more cohesive. It also prepares students for standardized testing situations when they have to compose a piece in a certain amount of time. Drafts are written outside the notebook on lined paper.
DAY 7: Begin revision - students need to determine the "heart" of their story and stretch it out. You may need to "interrogate" students to help them figure out what they really want readers to know and bring out details. For example if a student wrote, We celebrated my sister's birthday. You can ask: what is your sister's name? Include that! How old is your sister now? Include that! etc. Teach students that if they don't remember every detail, make it up! Your readers will not know. Also teach students to balance both the internal and external story - use words such as "I wonder," "I remember," "I noticed" etc. Students tend to remember (or want to make up) dialogue so they tend to include too much. Help them to create a balance.
AFTER THESE 7 DAYS, complete the entire process again with another seed idea students choose from their notebooks.
THEN, have students choose ONE of these pieces to take to publication to be used for Celebration!
FOR FINAL PUBLICATION: teach each student ONE point (what is MOST important for that writer at that time?) to carry in to his final draft. TEACHER corrects all other errors! You can say, "Pay attention to the parts I help you with and make sure you do it that way." (Of course, students will not catch everything you are doing, but you are holding them accountable as you edit.) Remember: published pieces need to be perfect, but students can only learn one thing at a time. The teacher then, as the more capable other, edits to perfection!