Oh Boy! Let me just get this out there… I am a control freak in my classroom! Confession is good for the soul!
I first started to wonder if there was more than one way to bake this cake known as writing when I purchased this book.
Then I was fortunate enough to go see her last week and the wheels started turning.
Confession #2: We have not made “books” in writer’s workshop. The old Mrs. Wills had her students self-select a topic and draw their picture (with pencil) and add words/inventive spelling during the first 15 minutes of independent writing time. Then once our timer went off, they could add color.
Overall, I was pleased with this approach, but I did feel I needed to widen my kiddos writerly life.
So we launched a more in depth look at illustrative studies. We started by revisiting books we have read previously.
My instructions were simple… “Writers, Today I want to go back and look at some of our favorite books. But this time, I want us to look at them as a writer. I want us to notice what [name of author/illustrator] did in his/her book.
On page 79, Katie Wood Ray talks about the framework of her units of study:
Gather a stack of texts that are good examples of what you want to study
Make sure the students know what it is they are studying and they are expected to write under the influence of this study.
Immerse them in reading and talking about the gathered texts and what they noticed about how the books are written.
Study some of them closely until they’ve become articulate (and can chart) about how people write this kind of text.
Write (teacher and student) something that could go into a stack of books like the ones you have been studying.
Here are a few:
We love this book by Jerry Pallotta. It builds in excitement and has a surprise ending. We used this while we were working on finding writing ideas.
As writers we noticed that some of the illustrations were created from a different perspective. The central image was pictured from the front, the back, the side, above, and below. AND by doing this it made the reader experience what the character was experiencing.
We also noticed that the illustrator zoomed in on certain pages. Boy, the close up of the Bluefish was scary because it was so huge! AND we could see its razor-sharp teeth.
Katie Wood Ray talks about this on page102 and calls this “Crafting with Positioning Perspective”.
These books provide wonderful examples of how action can be depicted in illustrations. See the swish lines around the basketball?
Katie Wood Ray speaks about the parallels between writing and illustrating. They are both versions of composing. Often times composing is done invisibly… in our heads. As a blogger (because I am not a writer), I often compose posts in my head on the drive home. Sometimes I wake up with an idea, or an idea pops into my head while I am talking with a colleague. The point is, while I am away from my actual writing (blogging), I am still composing.
Back to my classroom: The old Mrs. Wills had the students start a new piece each day. The “revised” Mrs. Wills provides opportunities for my students to compose on a piece of work over a period of days.
Under my document camera, I modeled my own writing (this took all week).
I also tried to plant the idea that “writers think about writing even when they are not actually writing” during my morning message. (The stretching words idea comes from Deanna Jump’s Chit Chat) The kids ate it up!Here is one (I have a ton I could share) of a student who took this on. Prior to “writing books” Miss L would typically write, “I am playing with my dog” and she would have considered herself done.
However, by making books she has a better developed topic.
She (like many of my students) decided to write her words on the left side of her paper and place the illustrations on the right, so you can’t see her words. They were written in typical kindergarten writing with inventive spelling… AWESOME!
She worked on this book for 4 days. She informed me today that she felt she was done, and wanted to start a new book.
Students keep their writing in a simple pocket folder. You can see I have placed a green dot (still working) on one side. The other side has a red dot (done).
All of the folders are kept in a bin up by my desk. In this way, they are right at our fingertips the next day. We do not waste instructional time searching for our folders.
Man! This was a windy post. AND I didn’t even capture it all. What a great week we had in writers workshop! Are you interested in reading more? Let me know~ I can do some follow-up posts as our weeks progress.
You can see all of our writing units that are perfect for kindergarten and first-grade by clicking the image below.