Updated: Sep 11, 2018
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Hi everyone! I hope you have all had a fantastic week!
Mine felt incredibly busy with the lead up to our learning journey night at school last Thursday. I don’t particularly do anything different in class to what we normally do in preparation for the night but I do like to ensure that the work put up for display reflects our most current learning. I have a very open classroom policy and many parents spend some time in my room each morning and regularly look around at the displays. For a few days prior to open night, my room becomes a “parent-free zone”. It’s during these few days that I so appreciate my parent helpers who change home readers and keep sight word folders up to date for me. Thank you Mums – you are a blessing!!
The kids love to see the displays being changed over. Putting their work up on ropes, display boards and computers tells the children that their work is valued and worthy of the attention of grown-ups. They really look forward to bringing their families in on that special night and having their hard work on display for the entire world to see. I know there is debate out there in education circles as to the merit in displaying children’s work but I love the vibe in my room when it is full of the work that the kiddos have produced. I feel happy to be in my room and I know the students take great pride in their environment too. That can only lead to continued positivity, pride and self-respect.
As parents, I think we often fail to see just how awesome, capable and independent our young children can be. After all, they can’t find their shoes, remember to brush their teeth or put their toys away at home, yet at school they show us PowerPoint’s they’ve made, program Bee Bots to travel a designated distance and produce amazing pieces of work. My parents couldn’t believe how much learning their kiddos DO at school and the progress they continue to make!
We have been progressing nicely through our Talk for Writing unit on non-chronological report writing and we are actually ready to embark on the third stage now – the invention/independent application phase. But first, let me take you back to our imitation phase and highlight some of the key learning that took place earlier on.
I have tried story mapping in a variety of ways. I have mapped out the entire text and rehearsed it for a few days before the students made their own versions of the map. I have story mapped the text in its different paragraphs and then let the kids map just that part before we moved on, step by step and learning the text orally every day as we progressed through. I always complete the class story map with the kiddos who advise me on what I could sketch for each sentence.
When they complete their own story maps, they are always free to draw or sketch whatever they think will best help them to learn the text and that needn’t be the same as what I have drawn. The students have mapped straight into their T4W books, on A3 paper or in special booklets made up with a blank page on the left for story mapping and lined paper on the right for writing their innovations. Actually, I’d forgotten about this format until I started writing this and I’m realising now that I’ll have to do that again as I loved it. Every part of the first two phases was kept together in one little booklet, which was neat, tidy and organised.
Anyway, I digress! For this unit, the kiddos had mapped out the text on A3 papers that had 10 pre-folded lines to help keep the map flowing, on track and easy to follow. I chose the option of story mapping one paragraph as a class then sending the kids off to map that paragraph too. We progressed through the story mapping in this way, from the introduction to the conclusion. We rehearsed the text each day and added actions to each paragraph as we went along.
Many of my students have been involved with the Talk for Writing program since kindy or pre-primary and know the majority of actions that Pie recommends for key connectives. These actions are displayed in our class and are non-negotiable in order to allow continuity of learning to flow throughout each year level within our school, but we have lots of fun coming up with actions that characterise other key words and phrases in the text.
Embedded in learning the exemplar text were a variety of other activities to provide opportunities for the students to learn the vocabulary and sentence structures they will need when it becomes time for independent writing. We looked at ‘joining’ words to link short sentences together, creating new sentences using unfamiliar words within the text and various role-play activities. Role-play games are great to use as they provide the kids with an opportunity to practice using their new embedded language in fun and different ways.
For example, children paired up and one pretended to be an expert on Welsh Green Dragons and the other child asked them questions. Then the one asking questions pretended to be a dragon pet shop owner and their partner asked questions about caring for a Welsh Green. The children needed to draw on the information they had obtained from the text to participate in these games, which they did so with flourish!
Of course, we also read many other texts about dragons in order to expand their growing vocabulary and develop an abundance of ideas to use in their independent writing later on. We also rehearse the text in a variety of ways to keep the process fun and engaging. We try different things like saying the text as fast as we can, using actions only, partner to partner, guess the sentence by the action - to name just a few strategies.
Once the children had a deep and embedded familiarity with the text we progressed through the imitation stage to boxing up the text, reading as a reader and reading as a writer. Prior to this, everything has been learned orally and through story mapping. The children were given a copy of the written text and I love to see the kiddos with this for the first time. The prior knowledge they have obtained throughout this stage gives each child, even those with less ability, the confidence to read through the text with a degree of greater independence than when presented with an unfamiliar text and no prior oral learning.
I believe that mapping out our text one paragraph at a time supports the learning associated with boxing up the text. This is when we decided on what the underlying structure of the text was. I began by asking the kids to tell me what each section or paragraph of the text was mainly about. I don’t tell them – they need to work it out themselves and non-fiction pieces usually lend themselves to easier identification of structures than narratives.
In greater detail, I drew a coloured border around the first paragraph of the text and the children did the same on theirs. I asked them, “What is this paragraph mainly about?” Their responses were varied but essentially they could me that it told us about a type of dragon and some information about it. This was recorded on a large chart and we moved on, repeating the same process with each paragraph and charting their key responses each time.
Completing this process has allowed the children to ‘box up’ the text and it became the basis of a planning template for their own report writing. We looked at what they identified as the purpose for each paragraph, listed in the centre column of the class chart, and decided on the general terminology for this type of paragraph - be it introduction, habitat, interesting facts etc. This terminology was added to the left hand side of the chart so that children could easily see the type of information they may find in each paragraph of a report. The column on the right hand side of the chart remained empty at this stage but is added to later on.
The process of reading as a reader allows us to read through each paragraph and identify what techniques the writer used to make the text interesting to read. We always complete a simple graphic organizer at this stage to provide the children with the opportunity to identify what the writer did to make the text appealing to them. I always love to read their responses and am constantly impressed by their depth of thinking! I also love how in touch they are with their own responses to texts. Clever little munchkins, indeed!
We then switched our thinking to reading as a writer. We identified which language structures used in the text were really effective and that we would want to reuse in our own writing. We chose a few sentence patterns used in the text and made innovations of just those sentences, so the children could see that we can take a great sentence pattern, change a few details, but the structure of the sentence still remains great. Through discussion, the students could identify what a report needed in order to be successful in its purpose and these would be the driving force behind our shared and independent writing.
By this stage, I felt that the children had internalised the text as well as they would ever be able to. They were familiar with the patterns and structures of reports and full bottles on Welsh Green Dragons! They had heard, told, story mapped, played with, practiced, recited, read and discussed the text and it was now an embedded part of their language banks to be drawn upon at will. It’s now time to move on to the innovation stage and I love, love, love this phase! The power of a child’s imagination has never ceased to amaze me and their innovations have allowed their creative thoughts to flourish. More on this next week!
When I read back over the blogs I have written, I feel as if I’m merely providing an overview or a snapshot of all that really happens during any Talk for Writing unit in my classroom and I suppose that is all that I can do. It would be impossible to relay to you through a written post all the precious moments of learning that occur. I can’t tell you about all the times a child might have told me about a connection they have made between one text and another, the times they have given me a story mapped letter to decipher in the morning, or the times they have chosen to sit outside at recess with pencil and paper to jot down what they can see and hear in their surroundings to enhance their story settings. I often see or hear some connection to a Talk for Writing unit, present or past, throughout any given day, at any given moment.
I would love to hear about your experiences with this program to!
Have you heard about it before?
Have you dabbled with it yourself or attended any training? Let me know and make my day!
Well, that’s it from me this week! I’m excited to delve further into anything of interest to you in upcoming posts.
Until then everyone – be safe, be well, and be happy!!
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