Grade: 3-5
Subject: 4 Blocks

#1119. fluent mini lessons topics, brainstorming, and beginnings

4 Blocks, level: Elementary
Posted Fri Jun 25 20:06:02 PDT 1999 by deb (
coloma, south haven, MI USA
Materials Required: paper, pencil, patience
Activity Time: varies
Concepts Taught: writing

Rubric Area: Content and Ideas
Brainstorming lots of topics

1. Writing workshop mini lesson generating ideas to write about.
Tell me what you know. Tell me what you wonder. What questions do you have about this entry? Where's the mystery here for you? One book that leads to writing is Aunt Flossie's Hats by Elizabeth Fitzgerald Howard. It says, "We pick out hats and try them on. Aunt Flossie says they are her memories, and each hat has a story..." The tale goes on to tell a story or adventure about each hat. After reading aloud the story, say to the students, "I suppose we each have things in our house, in our families, that hold stories. I am thinking about the dusty old animal cages in the garage that my family has. Once it was a home for a baby crow, another time, it was held a litter of baby rabbits." Send students on their way to write thinking of their own treasures in their own houses. Some more books that recall memories are: My Grandmother's Cookie Jar by Montzalee Miller, The Button Box by Margaret Reid, and Ruth Heller's The Front Hall Carpet.

2. Writing workshop procedure mini lesson Getting the kid to write.
To mobilize a student to write, have a conversation with the student. "I don't got nothing to say." Let's make a list of what you're an expert about. "I'm not an expert about anything ...........TV that's all. ..... and baseball." Maybe he mutters, "almost got a home run." In just one hit? Tell me about it. After hearing a few sentences, say, "Would you put that down on paper. Just how you described it to me?" Teacher stares at paper and repeats what he said. Wait expectantly. Do not ask or coax, just wait staring at the paper and if you feel you need to walk away and go help another child. Do not coax. He must learn to write for himself, not to your agenda.

3. Writing workshop mini lesson Brainstorming topics.
On one color paper or a 12 inch by 18 inch paper (big) brainstorm possible topics. First the teacher lists about six broad, general topics on board and reads them to class. Then teacher has students write possible topics for two minutes. Interrupt them saying, "Raise your hand if you have ridden on a train? If you have ridden in a plane? If you have driven a tractor?" Record more topics (for two minutes.) "Have you ever done something embarrassing? Consoled a friend? Given a gift you've made?" Add to your list.

4. Writing workshop mini lesson Brainstorming more topics.
I also ask have any of you ever been in kindergarten. What's your teacher's name, write it down. What do you remember the most. I usually tell them something I remember from kindergarten. Have any of you ever been in first grade? Etc. What about second? Have you ever had a field trip? What was the best part? Add ideas to your list of possibilities.

5. Writing workshop mini lesson What do you know about?
Help the children list what they know about. Give them classifications (pets, family members, school kids, friends, field trips, zoo, Walmart). They can record possible writing ideas on the front of their writing notebook, on a colored piece of paper, whatever the teacher wishes.

6. Writing workshop mini lesson daily writing journal.
Children who write in a journal tell about their lives every day are developing a ready list of topics they can then extend into a more detailed story. In second grade children write a dialogue journal with their teacher. The child writes about his/her day. The teacher writes a question or comment back modeling the correct spelling without making the children fix it.

7. Writing workshop mini lesson modeling how to write.
Before each writing session, we did a daily news or some kind of modeled or interactive writing. This helped the children have clear expectations of what to do. I modeled what to do when I came to a word that was tricky ('stretch" the word to hear the sounds, clap long words to hear the "chunks"), how to find words on the word wall, etc. Included in that modeling session, I did a quick McCracken lesson before I began writing. I gave them the tools they needed to get started. We started the year writing diary type journals because recalling daily events was easier for the kids than to make up a story. This way they could concentrate on writing words. Once they felt more comfortable in their writing (taking risks through invented spelling and a bank of high frequency known words including using the word wall) I began to model other types of writing. I would model for a long time before I would require them to begin writing different genres but they were always allowed to start earlier if they wished.
Most did.

Rubric Area: Content and Ideas
Brainstorming the Development of one topic

1. Writing workshop mini lesson Using the senses.
Get the five senses involved. Ask probing questions that stir memories. Christmas was fun. How was it fun. Who came? What did they wear? Think about Christmas. Could you hear the sleigh bells jingling. How did Christmas dinner taste? Was the turkey juicy or dry? Did your aunt's special pudding make you gag? How did it taste? How did it smell? What sounds did you hear? What did you see? Was the present as big as a tree? Was the dinner disgusting or the best turkey you've ever eaten?

2. Writing workshop mini lesson I have a topic. Now what?
STEP ONE: Write down everything you can think of related to your topic. Don't worry about spelling, capitalization, complete sentences, etc. JUST WRITE!
STEP TWO: Write some more. Make sure you have answered the following questions about you topic. Who? What? Where? When? Why? How?
STEP THREE: Narrow you topic. Make sure you have enough information, but not too much. Use the following questions to help narrow your topic: What or who is affected by the topic? How? Is the topic influenced by other things? How? Why is the topic important? What is the purpose of the topic? Why am I interested in this topic? Who will my audience be? What do I want to tell my audience? What is my purpose for writing about this topic?
STEP FOUR: Tie the similar ideas together. (They'll probably end up in the same paragraph in the paper.) Use a graphic organizer, or create your own.
STEP FIVE: Write the rough draft. Don't worry too much about conventions at this point. Get your ideas into writing first.

3. Writing workshop mini lesson strong nouns/verbs.
Adjectives/ adverbs make sentences weak not strong. We somehow think if there are five adjectives in front of the noun dog that dog is stronger. Is it? Rather than saying the young dog, how about puppy?

4. Writing workshop mini lesson adding detail.
Sometimes I have a hard time seeing what is being written. I have been going around to classes and often see "I had so much fun at the party. I got lots of presents. I ate a lot of food. It was delicious." Instead I'd like to hear about the twin dolls she received with soft white blankets, beds and carriages. I'd love to hear about the walkie talkie that only has static. I'd love to see the seven layer cake and the 4 glasses of coke she drank. So when you are writing today, remember the details.

5. Writing workshop mini lesson M through P (middles)
List the following sentences on the board then ask the students, "Where do you think I could begin my story?" They say #1 where else? Bring up starting in the middle. Possibly use other stories they are familiar with to give concrete examples.

1. waking up on the day we're going to climb a mountain
2. having breakfast
3. driving up the mountain
4. climbing up it
5. reaching the top
6. climbing down
7. getting home

6. Writing workshop mini lesson Rereading what they write.
Can I ask you to do one thing today? When you open your writing folders today, read the entire piece from yesterday. Reread the words gathering page too before you start writing.

7. Writing workshop mini lesson Titles.
Last night I was thinking about your titles. If you are writing about your dog, your title is My Dog. Think about how you might change that label to a title. Give examples of titles of books that students are familiar with. One example may be, Where the Red Fern Grows which is about two dogs. Another example is a story called The Trip which we all know as The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

8. Writing workshop mini lesson Writing points twice.
Did you say something twice? Showing what you mean encourages the lazy reader while telling cuts down on the interest of the piece. If your piece says "Grandma's House, Grandma this, Grandma that...can you write other descriptive words instead? Eliminate whenever possible words like and, it is that, it is this.

9. Writing workshop mini lesson Making the writing more interesting.
Teacher writes in front of the students. For example teacher writes on board, overhead, etc. I have two dogs. I like my dogs. One is black. One is brown. The end. Then read story to class. Is this very interesting? "NO! ok help me add to my story." "Do you wonder about my dogs?" The kids ask what's it's name, where did you get them, etc... Teacher modeling of writing in front of the students is very helpful. Brainstorming descriptive words to help make writing more interesting.

10. Writing workshop mini-lesson honesty, details
When you write "white snow covered the world" was it really white? Or "I had a terrific time" weren't there really some sad times too? As a class model how to brainstorm all the different words that pop into your head about something.

11. Writing workshop mini lesson TAP (topic, audience, purpose).
Read Owl Moon. In the story the little girl learns to go owling from her father. What have you learned from someone?
Brainstorm possible topics:
tie a shoe
hunting ride a bike
playing scouts
drive a car
mac and cheese

12. Writing workshop mini lesson bubbles.
Take the children outside during recess to blow bubbles. What was it like? Brainstorm words all together. Then have the kids brainstorm for 1 minute alone. Then have the kids partner or small group share their words. Then large group share. Have them write about a time they played with bubbles. It could be this time. It could be a special memory. Where do you find bubbles? What have ever done with bubbles? Have you played with them in the bathtub? This ties in to second grade science objectives too.

13. Writing workshop mini lesson helium filled balloons.
Bring in a garbage bag of helium filled balloons. Have the class work together to keep the balloons up in the air. Then brainstorm words all together. Where do you find balloons? What are your memories of balloons? Then have the kids brainstorm for 1 minute alone. Then have the kids partner or small group share their words. Then large group share. Have them write about a time they played with balloons. It could be this time. It could be a special memory.

14. Writing workshop mini lesson teacher modeling how to write a story.
This mini lessons should be done many many MANY many times. Tell the children that today during the writing workshop you will show them how to write a story. Explain that they have a job to do while you are writing your story: it will be their job to use their eyes, their ears, and their brains. They are to use their eyes to watch everything you do. They are to use their ears to listen to everything you say. They are to use their brains to remember what they see and hear so they will know how to write a story.

First, talk about your story. What are some things that I know about that I could write a story about?
I could write a story about...
I think I'll write a story about...
Where will my story take place?
Who will be in my story?
What will the problem be?
How will I solve the problem?
What words will start my story?

Second, write your story using the chalkboard, chart paper, an overhead projector. Make some or all of the following mistakes:
omit some words
omit some capital letters
omit some punctuation marks
use some incorrect words
use some incorrect spellings

Reread your story often while writing. Add any missing words. Correct incorrect words by putting one line through the incorrect word. Correct spelling and punctuation errors. When you are finished, have the children tell everything they saw and heard you do while you were writing your story. Record their responses on a chart. Post the chart for future reference.

15. Writing workshop mini lesson using picture clues to improve detail to stories.