May 21, 2011

Here Lies Said

One of my big professional goals for the year was to successfully implement Writing Workshop in my classroom.  While my writing workshop is by no means perfect (I already have many things I plan to improve next year...), I definitely think it has been a success!  I've heard about this fun mini-lesson many times, and I have no idea why it took me so long to actually do it with my class, but I'm so glad I finally did!

Last week, I announced some sad news to the class.  As I always do before a mini-lesson, I gathered all of the kids on the carpet with their writing notebooks.  On our chart, I had drawn a big tomb stone and written the words "Rest in Peace" across the top.  Needless to say, the kiddos were immediately intrigued.  (Why are 5th graders so interested in death, BTW?)  I put on my saddest face and announced, "Boys and girls, I have some sad, sad news to share with you.  There has been a death.  And I think this death will greatly affect you and your writing."  As they begin to ask, "Who died???" I turned and wrote "SAID" on the chart.  "Yes, Said is now dead.  He died from exhaustion and overuse.  We have been using poor said far too often in our writing, and he just couldn't go on any longer.  What words can we now use in our writing since said is dead?"

Oh my goodness, I was not prepared for the DELUGE of alternatives that the kids supplied me with faster than I could write them on the chart!!!  They came up with TONS of creative words, several of which I wouldn't even have thought of myself!  After we filled up the entire tombstone, I had the kids look back through their writing notebooks, find two places they used the word "said," and change them to one of our new words.  The kids loved this lesson and have been coming up with even more words to add to the chart ever since.  

A few days later we "burried" some other overused words like "nice," "went" and "sad."  The kids LOVED it (and that's saying a lot--it has been tough to get them excited about ANYTHING lately!).  I hung both pages from the chart on our Writing Workshop bulletin board to reference over the next few weeks.  Next year, I plan to teach this lesson early on in the year and make construction paper tombstones with all of the words afterwards to put up around the room.  Hopefully we will add to them all year long!
Please excuse my god-awful handwriting...
it all just turns to crap when I am leaning sideways to write on the chart from my rocking chair...

Have any great writing workshop mini-lessons to share???  I would love to hear your ideas!!


  1. what an awesome idea! it definitely sounds super engaging! I am glad they liked the lesson!

  2. What a fabulous exercise!!! You are a marvelous teacher :)

  3. I love this idea!!! You rock!

  4. I saw a lesson like this for younger kiddos where instead of using a tombstone, you use a bed and put [insert word] to bed because he is so tired from being used so much :)

  5. Great idea!! I have seen this before and just forgot about it, can't wait to try it.

  6. I'd heard of this being done before - glad it worked out so well with your class! It's so great when the kids get excited about writing :)

  7. This is awesome. We also do this with our 5th graders, and we actually have a funeral service. We dress in black, play "Amazing Grace", and read eulogies for these words. I know your students love you innovative ways of teaching!

  8. I'm a high school English teacher and I'm convinced that this would be fun for my age group too. Even teenagers love silly things like this! I'm going to use this!


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