Last week I told you all about our freaken amazing family field trip to Rustic Falls last weekend. All week has been the Rustic Falls post game show. Recaps, replays, and reviews seem to be a constant stream in our classroom. Of course I love it. Years ago I would have never thought my kids would be able to reflect on an experience with so much detail and so much language! But of course I had to be the mean ol’ teacher and ruin all the fun and take this chit chat (however important and beneficial!) to the optimal level of educational prowess. I made it a writing lesson.
It’s not that my kids don’t like writing it’s just that it is challenging for them. Obviously they don’t love doing things that are hard. Who can blame them? You think I look forward to a 60 minute spinning class. Heck no – sometimes I can’t tell if I’m sweating or crying in pain. But I do it because of the positive consequences (let’s go buns of steel!). I’d love to think that my kiddos work on writing because they know it’s good for them but let’s be honest – they are just doing it because it’s on their schedule and I’m telling them to do it. Fine, I’ll take it. Writing has been going pretty well so far these year. It’s slowly getting less aversive… for both me and the kids. We do our writing centers each afternoon. We’ve also been doing some longer writing assignments in morning group and teacher time.
We started out our Rustic Falls Writing Assignment with a group brainstorm during morning group. I have all of my higher functioning students together so this was a good way to get the creative juices flowing. We made a big list on the white board of everything we did at Rustic Falls.
As a group we then worked on writing opening sentences. This is the big leagues for my guys. We are used to writing things sequentially. Main idea opening sentence!?! – Holy crap we are advanced. This was a tough concept to grasp for some of my kids.
After we got our opening sentences down, we split into our centers – teacher time, language (fluency), and reading. For the next few days the kids I had in teacher time continued to work on their stories with me. I have two students in a group at this time. I highly recommend doing very small groups when working on higher level writing skills. My kids really need help with each step of writing. Some of them would just write the five main things they did – We took the bus. We played in the bounce house. We ate lunch. We walked in the forest. We went home. And then be done. They need someone to ask questions at each step to provoke additional details. I ask tons of questions, use visual and textual prompts, and give response options.
- Who did you sit next to on the bus? Was the bus ride long or short? What color was the bus? How did you feel on the bus ride – happy, sad, excited?
This helps gets tons more information. After following this process for several big ideas some of them were able to add more details on their own. Others still needed a lot of help. Of course some times we seemed to get too detailed since that discrimination of which details are important and which are not is missing. I had one student write several sentences about the color of the meatballs he ate. Eh.
When we worked on our rough drafts – I do not worry about spelling, handwriting, or grammar!! I know – send me to teacher time out! I can explain! So many of my kids shut down when they are corrected and told they are wrong repeatedly. Language and writing are already so difficult that to add several more challenging skills would overload my little ones. After we finished our rough drafts, I went back through the paper with my student and they helped me fix spelling and grammar mistakes.
Then came time for the fancy paper. I told you – we are kind of a big deal. I’m planning on binding all of the stories and pictures and giving them to my aunt and uncle (who run Rustic Falls) as a thank you. The fancy paper is when we focus on nice handwriting. The students copied their rough draft onto the fancy paper. Something about the ‘fancy’ paper ups the ante for my kids. I make a real big deal about and they get all excited. Some of them only hold the paper by the edges like it’s an ancient, delicate heirloom. Cute! Let me brag about their great work:
And then of course we made some pictures. Some of my guys need some prompts to add more details for pictures too. They turned out so adorable 🙂
Happy Monday friends!