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SpongeBob WritingPants *Freebie

I recently reviewed my posts
and I feel pretty guilty.
90% of them are personal, not teaching.
While I consider those two things to be the same,
me sharing about how badly Twilight stinks
while cathartic for me
doesn’t help you in the classroom.

So here goes.

Are you ready, kids?!
Aye, aye, captain!
I can’t heeear yoooouuu!
Aye, aye, captain!

When do we learn about what authors do?
We write compositions and in notebooks too!
If beautiful language is something you like,
Then get out your notebook! Get ready to write!



No, you didn’t change the channel.
This is the song I used to start Writer’s Workshop with every day.
You could probably modify it to fit your writing model if you needed to.
I haven’t used it this year
you know how you do something 
and then you just don’t
and you don’t even know why?
That’s what that is about.

Anyway, I wanted to share a little bit of the writing activities that we’ve done this year that have really improved the quality of my students’ writing.

Good writers start with good readers.
Want to write something good?
Write it like your favorite author –
or try, anyway.
So we spend a lot of time analyzing fiction structure.

This is our number one narrative buddy.
Once kids understand this, they can make far better predictions in reading, retell better, and write with a more coherent and deliberate structure.
(For this one and more fiction graphic organizers and formats, you can check out my Fiction Pack at my TPT store or Teacher’s Notebook store.)

And here’s a freebie for you too! Click it to grab it from google docs!

I start out the year with an author study of some great children’s author
(in fourth grade, we read Patricia Polacco out the yinyang,
in third, we read tons of Tomie dePaola.)
This year, these are some of the titles we read:
(We also read others, but I focus on personal narratives as models for writing).

Then we chart observations and reverse-map the structure on a fiction story map, or Freytag’s Pyramid.
This is a pyramid we worked on for Tom. I know some might think this is too difficult for kids, but I think it’s essential for an understanding of how text really works. And they master the language. I call it the Fiction Story Map, but we act it out as a roller coaster. Kids love it.

Then, we adventurously attempt to draft our own personal narratives. We do a lot of prewriting – quickwrites usually, identifying a relationship we have and a memory associated with it. Using a simple structure, I have students draft a beginning (character, trait, setting, problem), middle (rising action) end (resolution, falling action, heartfelt resolution).

Of course, they’re pretty horrible.

That’s a lot to take on for a kid.

But here’s where the real writing comes in.
This is my writing motto: Writing is hard. Work hard to do it.

So we get to work.
We cut apart their lame drafts
by sentence
(this is the first step for students to see that the first thing they write often stinks. Mine does. Revising is your buddy – if you don’t revise, your writing will fall short of your best)

Then we sequence them on a blank story map and glue them on.

This is where the magic happens. These comments are common, necessary, and magical:
“Oh! I don’t have a heartfelt resolution!”
“I only have one event in my rising action!”
“I don’t have ANY setting at all.”
“My writing is all out of order!”
and the best one ever – 
Teachable Moment City! 
Kids, today you will LEARN something!
Getting kids to revise is tough.
This is mostly because they don’t know what to do.
The reread, change some spelling, add in some missing words and say, 
“I’m done. It’s good. Sure.”
It’s usually not.
It usually still stinks.
Mine does.
So here comes my other good buddy, STAR revising, compliments of Kelly Gallagher
the best writing guru I know.
His book is for adolescent writing,
but there’s so much that’s useful for all ages,
such as STAR revising.
Here’s what it stands for:
Take Out
Add In
That’s it! 
That’s what writers do!
They Substitute words or ideas or paragraphs!
They Take out words or ideas or paragraphs!
They Add in words or ideas or paragraphs!
They Rearrange words or ideas or paragraphs!
I model each of these in my own writing, and give the kids time to do the same to theirs. This is the way I have it charted in my classroom, after we used the heck out of my messy handwritten chart:
Incidentally, these are for sale in my TPT store.
These drafts have been revised in color. This is the kind of revision I want my kids to get used to making.
These were not the craziest, either. Some kids had a bunch of additional tabs glued to the edges of their paper to Add in some more!
Then, we edit and publish, and they have actually made REAL revisions. 
Better than Twilight, right?
Happy Writing!

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  1. I LOVE this post (and all of your posts- teaching or not!) I also LOVE the revision charts you use- I am going to get them ASAP!!! I also LOVE how you cut up your writing to rearrange it! I do that sometimes too! Thanks! ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. I love your song! I went back and read a ton of your posts just now, and you are awesome. I mean, you crack me up while still having fantastic teaching ideas, and you seem to reference plenty of similar interests. Also, I'm sorry that my comments probably make me sound like a stalker, but seriously… I am excited to follow you!

  3. Wow I am soooooo happy you told me that, even if you're afraid it sounds stalker-y. (BTW, I've left the 'sorry I sound like a stalker' comment before, too.) It makes me super happy to think that somebody is getting something out of the stuff I feel compelled to type up, and I was just starting to get a little dismayed, weirdly. Blog friends are invaluable!

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