Grade: Middle

#4715. Leads-Narratives

Reading/Writing, level: Middle
Posted 04/25/2013 by Ashley Geil (Ashley Geil).
Edison Junior High School, Pekin, IL
Materials Required: Multiple young adult novels (can vary on personal taste)
Activity Time: 40-50 minutes
Concepts Taught: Writing a strong lead

Prior Knowledge
• Students have already begun drafting their personal narratives. They previously collected multiple ideas, chose one, made a plan and began drafting.
• Students have been taught a few mini-lessons already in regards to writing a narrative.

Student Objectives
• Students will critically examine his/her current lead in the draft.
• Students will create multiple potential leads trying different strategies.
• Students will use critical thinking and analyzing skills to choose a strong lead to begin his/her story using feedback from a peer and/or teacher.

• Each student needs their writing composition notebook and draft.
• Multiple young adult novels
o The Uglies by Scott Westerfield
o Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli
o Hoot by Carl Hiaasen
• An overhead or document camera to show mentor text/own writing demonstration

Lesson Implementation

Time Procedure
10-15 minutes Mini-Lesson
Hook: "Has your friend ever begun telling you a story, and right away you knew the story wasn't going anywhere? You may have tried to be polite, and listen patiently, or you may have simply cut them off and asked what the purpose of the story was. You probably lost interest because your friend didn't intrigue you at the very beginning."
Connection: "The same exact thing happens as a reader, except as a reader I have the option to stop reading (unless it is a required assignment of course). If we read a line, paragraph or chapter, and aren't interested, we aren't going to continue reading. So as writers, it is so important to write a strong lead that draws readers in. Leads give shape to the piece and set the tone and pace of the story."
Teaching Point: "Today I will teach you some strategies to use while crafting strong leads for your personal narratives."
Demonstration/Modeling: "Let's look at a few of our favorite novels and see how those authors began their stories."
Read the beginning lines of the following novels: Maniac Magee, The Uglies, and Hoot. After we read each beginning, share with students what you notice about the way the author organized/constructed the lead. Think out loud about techniques the author used, and what his/her purpose was.
"Students, I can see a trend in the leads I have read. Each drew me in as a reader, and I wanted to continue reading. I know, being a writer myself, that the leads we just read, most likely wasn't their first lead. Writers continuously revise and make changes to improve the draft. Our best writing comes after many tries and many drafts. Now let's look closely at some of the strategies they used, so we can learn from them."
Look back at each of the leads, and label them with action, setting, dialogue or a statement that is out of the ordinary. Explain to students that each strategy hopes to catch the attention of the reader, while revealing something important about the story and setting the tone.
Show students a previously made anchor chart that highlights the different strategies to try while creating a strong lead. Use it as a reference the rest of the lesson.
"Writers, now that we know what some good strategies are to create strong leads, let's look at my draft and see how I can change it to make it better. Although I think my lead is good, I know that I can still improve it."
Demonstrate writing one or two new leads in front of students using one of the strategies mentioned above. (Attached I have a few leads I have written prior to the lesson, although trying a new lead in front of students is best.) While writing, think out loud to show students the thought process.
Active Engagement: "Writers, now let's look back at your draft. I will give you a moment to re-read your current lead." (Pause, while walking around as students read). "After reading your lead, think about what you want your readers to know/understand at the beginning of your story. Now identify the strategy you may want to try while drafting your new potential lead." (Pause and let students choose one strategy.) "Partners, turn to each other and share what strategy you are going to try and why." (As students share, listen to a few conversations.) Once students are done sharing, find one group to highlight their thinking to share with the class.
Link: "Writers, leads are such an important part of writing. No matter what piece you are working on, remember that leads set up the beginning of your writing, so make sure you are purposeful while crafting it. So today, re-write your current lead at least two times, and then use your partner for assistance choosing the one that fits your piece the best. After you finish, you may continue writing your draft, or choose another piece to start drafting."
20-30 minutes Independent Writing Time/Small Group/Individual Conferring
While students are working, confer with students individually. I typically pull up a chair or squat next to the student. Follow the structure of a conference as outlined below.
• Research- Ask the student what he/she is working on, and find a teaching point.
• Compliment-Find one thing the writer has done well thus far.
• Teach-Share one strategy with the student. (It doesn't have to be in direct relation to the lesson taught today).
• Link-Repeat the strategy, and remind students when/how to use it in the future.
While conferring, I carry something to take notes on the conferences I have with students. This can/will be used for data/keeping track of student progress.
In addition, if you notice a few students are struggling with the same thing, pull a small group of students to a table, to teach a mini-lesson. The structure is similar to the mini-lesson.
5-10 minutes Closing
Share: "Writers, I saw some awesome leads while conferring with some of you. Let's spend a couple minutes sharing our new leads with our partners. Remember, provide some insightful feedback regarding what you noticed your partner did well!" Give students a couple minutes to share and circulate, listening to student conversations.
Link: "Tomorrow we will continue drafting our stories, looking closely at when to slow down to highlight a moment or speed up to move the story along. But remember, today we examined how to begin our stories with a strong lead, that set the tone for the whole piece. Each and every piece you write must begin by enticing the reader.

Students will be assessed informally based on conferences. While conferring with students I am able to determine where students are in their writing, and where I can best guide and help them. Each time I talk with students I choose one teaching moment, and record important information from the conversation for further use. I also will be able to informally assess students during the active engagement part of the mini-lesson, and partner share time. As students are sharing with each other, I will be circulating the classroom listening to leads, and giving constructive feedback to students. In addition, students will be formally assessed after the final product is created and published based on the mini-lessons taught during the unit. The assessment is in the form of a rubric. Students assess their own work as well, using a rubric.

PERSONAL EXAMPLES- Strong Leads (I strongly advise to create your own examples)
The rays of warmth were stretching across the sky. It was the perfect day to spend outside being active. My father and I decided to spend the afternoon playing Frisbee golf. It didn't matter that may take us five more shots to get the disc in each hole; we knew we weren't professionals. An afternoon together meant an enjoyable experience, and we prepared ourselves mentally and physically. We didn't realize the adventure that was waiting for us at the park.
"What shall we do today?" I asked lazily as I strolled into the kitchen.
"Well, it's going to be a beautiful, sunny day today," my father replied.
"So that means an afternoon of Frisbee golfing?"
"Sure, why not," my father replied. "That is, if you can find your disc."
"Oh, I will find it. Don't you worry!" I remarked enthusiastically.

The journey began with the van ride to the local park. As we approached the park, we saw crowds of people with billowing smoke flowing from their grills. Mounds of children were scattered around the playground, running and chasing each other. The rays of sunlight were streaking across the park, making vision a little tricky without sunglasses.
We strolled up to the first hole, stretching our arms to prepare them for the first toss. The first throw is always horrible, due to the lack of experience since the last excursion. I stepped up to the tee, and allowed the disc to slowly release from tiger like grip. The disc soared through the air, and landed softly in the grass, only a couple yards from where I stood.