June 25, 2012

Writing Workshop: The Recurring Line

This is a lesson I borrowed from CRAFT by Ralph Fletcher, my favorite go-to writing mini-lesson book.  When I was first learning about Writing Workshop at a seminar, the presenter said that initially, teaching good mini-lessons is more important than making sure the kids are using what you've just taught in their writing right away.  Gradually, over time, she said, you'll start seeing the techniques you've taught pop up in their projects and drafts.  This concept is different than what I'd initially thought about teaching writing, but after two solid years of using the Writing Workshop model, I have to say that I agree.  There are some lessons I teach, like good beginnings and endings or transition words, that I make sure the kids are practicing right away.  Those lessons have an important purpose in the context of a writing project that we are all working on.  But other times, I just want to teach a lesson on a quality technique that isn't essential, but will help elevate their writing to the next level.  When I'm looking for something like that, I turn to CRAFT.

This lesson is called "The Recurring Line."  To teach it, I used three mentor texts: The Doorbell Rang, The Giving Tree, and Chicken Sunday.  After each story, we identified the recurring line and the author's purpose for including it.  In The Doorbell Rang, a preschool book, the recurring lines just add a pattern to the story, making it easy for little kids to pick it up.  Simple.  In The Giving Tree, the recurring line ("And the tree was happy.") embodies the story's theme--the tree is happy when he is helping the boy and when he is a part of the boy's life.  In Chicken Sunday, the recurring line ("A voice like slow thunder and sweet rain") describes an important, memorable quality about an important character.  After reading that story, we talked about how the author wanted to leave a lasting impression of that character in our minds, and how her voice was something special about her.
The kids loved the lesson (they love any lesson with picture books!), and even though I didn't see recurring lines pop up in their writing much, I'm confident that if I taught it again next year and extended it with modeling using a recurring line in my own writing, some of my little writers will catch on.  It doesn't have to be every single student, but if one of my little writers picks up a quality writing technique from a mini-lesson, I consider it a success. :)

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing the lesson idea! I'm pinning it for this coming year! :-)


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