Saturday, October 30, 2010

Reflection #1

We have now written five books attempting to use specific author craft. Most of the craft has been structure although we have touched upon word choice here and there. This week there were two half days due to conferences so we did not feature a big book. This seems to be a good time for me to reflect…

  • Each week my students are anxious to find out what big book we will read. I actually had someone begging for a dinosaur big book yesterday but when I showed the class what book I had chosen they wanted to hear it immediately. Their interest is peaked.
  • The big books are being read and reread during literacy work stations. Students partner at the easel. I can hear them as they read paying attention to dialogue, punctuation marks, and reading labels and speech bubbles.
  • The books written by our class are displayed in our classroom library. Every day students are reading those books to themselves or to a friend. They seem delighted that their work is featured in our library.
  • The big question for me as I planned this project was; Would my students transfer what they were learning in reading to their writing in writer’s workshop? Would some students use the author craft to help structure their stories. Would the students imitate illustrations, speech bubbles, labels, repeating lines, repeating words, etc?
  • I assumed students who were the most literate might give some of the craft a try. I wondered about struggling students. Students across all ability levels have tried to write stories using Cindy Ward’s structure (On Monday…On Tuesday…On Wednesday). Children across all ability levels have used Lois Ehlert’s labeling when writing their texts. Children across all ability levels have tried writing a fictional story with information like Ruth Kraus. I have not seen the seesaw structure appear yet but they are writing so much I have not seen everything either.

Right now, at this point in time, this project has paid big dividends for the children in my class. They are becoming readers who write and writers who read. During regular story time, they are stopping me and commenting on what the author is doing in the text. They are making many text to text connections. Last week I read several versions of In a Dark, Dark Wood. While conferencing with parents, I pulled out each child’s writing to share. I found four new versions of In a Dark, Dark, Wood and it was not even a featured big book! I struggled with my capstone project for almost two years trying to find something that would be worth the time and effort. I feel like I struck gold.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

A Rewrite of The Carrot Seed

The essential questions for this unit of study are:

clip_image001 How does reading help me become a better writer?

clip_image001[1] What can I learn from other authors and illustrators?

clip_image001[2] How can I make use of the craft of other authors and illustrators in my writing and drawing?

The Carrot Seed


Ruth Kraus


This week we studied the text, The Carrot Seed by Ruth Kraus. This choice is for the following reasons:

· Most students have grown some kind of plant. (familiarity and prior knowledge)

· The structure is somewhat procedural and uses a seesaw effect. (opposing opinions)

· The illustrations are large. (they are not colorful: this text was written in 1945)

· Text and pictures match (emphasizing picture-word match)

· There is a pattern to the text.

· Most students have experienced trying to do something others say they cannot accomplish. (familiarity and prior knowledge)

Monday-Teacher read the book and students listened. There was a follow-up conversation about the book. Most students had not heard this story before.

Tuesday-Teacher and students read the book together. Dialogue was introduced as were the phrases talking marks and quotation marks. Students were asked to take on the persona of the characters in the book when reading what they said.

Thursday-Students read the book chorally. Students talked about how Ruth Kraus had structured this story. With coaching from the teacher they saw the pattern of the boy thinking he could while everyone else said he could not. Several children brought up the word perseverance remembering what we had learned previously about expectations in first grade.

Friday-Students read the book chorally with a student helper pointing to the words. The teacher asked if anyone had thought of a situation when they had tried to do something and others said they could not. Isabel shared that she had a wiggly tooth and everyone said it was not going to come out. The class responded. Most first grade students have lost at least one tooth by now. This scenario was one that all students could identify with and we used it as topic for our story. Quickly the students offered up the ideas for the story using the pattern of someone wanting to lose a tooth and everyone else saying it was not going to come out. They voted as a class for the gender and names of the main character and her sibling. They agreed to keep a mother and father in the story as well. The first draft was written by the teacher on the whiteboard while the students brainstormed. Some revision was done by the students as we worked. We reread what we had scripted. Students appeared satisfied with their work. The teacher then set up the LCD projector and her laptop. She began to write the story page by page. As she did, she asked, “Is there anything you want to change, add, or delete?” Students began discussing changes. Each change was voted on by the class. Most changes were accepted but one at the end was not.


First Draft on the whiteboard


Revision example


Emma’s Loose Tooth

By Mrs. Brown’s First Grade


Emma had a wiggly tooth.

“It’s not going to fall out”, said Mom.

“It’s not going to come out”, said Dad.

“It’s never ever going to get out of your mouth”, said her older brother, Caleb.

Emma chomped on a juicy cheeseburger with tomatoes and lettuce. The tooth got looser but it didn’t come out.

Mom said, “I don’t think it’s ever going to come out.”

Dad said, “If you chomp on a juicy cheeseburger it will get looser but it is not coming out.”

Caleb said, “It’s never ever going to fall out.”

So…Emma put her fingers into her mouth and pulled on her tooth.

“It’s just never ever, ever going to come out”, said Mom.

“It’s never ever, ever going to come out, never”, said Dad.

“Maybe…it will come out”, said Caleb.

So…Emma poked at it with a sharp toothpick but it didn’t come out.

Mom said, “It will never come out unless you drill it with a dentist drill.”

Dad said, “If you pull harder it might come out.”

Caleb said, “Maybe…it will come out.”

Then…Emma bit into a Granny Smith apple and her tooth came out! Just like Emma knew it would.

The students are in the process of illustrating each page now. Hopefully we will have it complete by next week and I can post a picture.

Each book we do becomes more meaningful. Students are making many connections between their reading and writing now, talking more about craft, and recognizing that they can do the same types of writing that career writers do. I can’t wait to get started on the next featured big book.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Rewriting Growing Vegetable Soup

The essential questions for this unit of study are:

clip_image001 How does reading help me become a better writer?

clip_image001[1] What can I learn from other authors and illustrators?

clip_image001[2] How can I make use of the craft of other authors and illustrators in my writing and drawing?

Growing Vegetable Soup by Lois Ehlert


This week we studied the text, Growing Vegetable Soup by Lois Ehlert. This choice is for the following reasons:

  • This is a subject students have had experience with (familiarity and prior knowledge).
  • This is procedural text.
  • The structure overuses a connecting word as a way of organizing the text (and).
  • The illustrations are large, simple, and match the text.
  • The author/illustrator labels her illustrations
  • The text is easy to read but also introduces some new vocabulary.

Monday-No school, holiday 

Tuesday- I read the story to the students. 

Thursday-Students read the book chorally with me. Students were asked to pay special attention to the words in the story. They were asked what word Lois Ehlert used over and over again. After several guesses, one child offered the word and. We talked about how the word and connects thoughts and lists of things. I explained that in this book Lois Ehlert uses and a lot to connect parts of the story together making one very long sentence that covers several pages.

Friday- Students reread the book chorally. They counted how many ands they found in the book. Again, I showed the students how the author overused and to connect steps together in specific parts of the book. When we counted how many ands were in the book, a student reminded me to count the and in, Written and Illustrated by Lois Ehlert”. I thought about not honoring that request as it was not part of the text but chose to do as the student asked. We talked about how usually when an author is both illustrator and writer, their name appears on the cover and title page without the words written and illustrated. We wondered why this time since it was the same person doing both jobs she would have “written and illustrated” on the cover and title page. One of my students suggested it was because she wanted to put another and in the book. We looked at other books we had been reading by Lois Ehlert to see how her name was featured. All of her other books only say, Lois Ehlert. I thought this was very clever thinking from my students and it shows me they are trying to look at books through the eyes of an author.

The students needed to follow a procedure in order to write a procedural text so I gave them ingredients and directions to make their own snack.  I told them they needed to pay close attention to all the steps that went with the making their snack and in fact they might have to imagine some of the steps they were not privy to such as the gathering of the groceries. I gave each child a recipe card to keep. I explained that we learn to read for many reasons. We read for pleasure, for information, and to follow directions (procedure).Some authors write directions for people just like Lois Ehlert did in her book. Students were told after they made their snack and ate it, they would then create a book about making their snack similar to Lois Ehlert’s book, Making Vegetable Soup.



The students sliced apples and bananas, and spread Nutella (hazelnut spread) and/or peanut butter on graham crackers. Then they topped the graham cracker with their fruit and we drizzled a little bit of honey on top. Many of them had never had a snack like this before but every student ate at least part of their creation.

Once the students experienced a procedure, it was time to write the text. They recounted what had happened in order even,adding to the text that we picked the apples from a tree and that we had gone to a grocery store to buy the ingredients. This part was imagined but we agreed it was important to make our text interesting and long enough to bother to read. While students gave steps to making their snack, I recorded on chart paper. They overemphasized the word and throughout their text. We placed periods at the end only when there was going to be a setting change. (Example: Once we left the grocery store…we ended the sentence with a period and started a new sentence gathering the tools we needed to cook.)

chart paper

Each student selected a part of the story they wanted to illustrate. I reminded them that Lois Ehlert uses bold color, large objects, and she labels important items in her illustrations.

Making Snack cover

Here is the text the students came up with:

We are going to make graham cracker sandwiches.

We are going to pick apples from a tree.

We are going to the grocery store to get honey

and bananas

and graham crackers

and peanut butter

and Nutella.

We got all the tools to make the sandwiches.

We got knives and paper plates.

We all washed our hands and Mrs. Brown washed the apples.

We cut up apples

and bananas.

Mrs. Redman gave us a graham cracker

and peanut butter and Nutella and honey.

We spread the peanut butter and the Nutella and honey on the graham cracker.

We put fruit on top and ate it all up!

We hope we can make it again, tomorrow.

I was particularly interested to see the students open and close their story very similar to Lois Ehlert. I had not pointed the opening and closing out to them although we have been talking about it in Writer’s Workshop.