Apostrophe Detectives

Nov 6, 2009 by

Writing Trait/Strategy: Writing conventions Mentor Text Suggestions: Alphie the Apostrophe by Moira Rose Donohue The Girl’s Like Spaghetti by Lynne Truss Greedy Apostrophe by Jan Carr The Perfect Pop-Up Punctuation Book by Kate Petty and Jennie Maizels Description: This lesson focuses on apostrophes, but the procedures can be used for any writing convention. I noticed that my students were very confused about the proper usage of apostrophes. As with anything new, learners tend to overuse punctuation–some of them even started using apostrophes in every plural noun (“I have three cat’s.” “The flower’s are blooming.”). I decided to launch an investigation that we called “Apostrophe Detectives.” Each student searched through their independent reading books for words that contained apostrophes and wrote both the word and the phrase or sentence that contained the word. Next I...

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Walk Around in the Author’s Syntax...

Nov 5, 2009 by

Writing Trait/Strategy: Sentence fluency; conventions Mentor Text Suggestions: The Whale’s Song by Dyan Sheldon Crab Moon by Ruth Horowitz Shortcut by Donald Crews Description: This strategy, described in Mentor Texts by Dorfman and Cappelli, is an effective way to help students try out a variety of sentence structures and help them begin to internalize language conventions. Lift an excerpt from a text such as the example below from Shortcut by Donald Crews: I HEAR A TRAIN!” Everybody stopped. Everybody listened. We all heard the train whistle. Should we run ahead to the path home or back to the cut-off? Read the passage aloud several times so that students can hear the rhythm of the text. After discussing what they noticed, have students participate in a shared writing experience. Give them the beginning sentence and...

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Attention-Grabbing Leads

Nov 5, 2009 by

Writing Trait/Strategy: Organization Mentor Text Suggestions: Hey Al by Arthur Yorinks (description of character and question) Big Mama’s by Donald Crews (question) My Mama Had a Dancing Heart by Libba Moore Gray (description of a person) Owl Moon by Jane Yolen (setting the mood) All About Owls by Jim Arnosky (question lead) Vote! by Eileen Christelow (What if..? Scenario) The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles (quote) My Brother Martin by Christine King Farris (anecdote) Description: It is amazing how even this one mini-lesson can dramatically improve student writing. When a writer begins with a good lead s/he sets the tone for the entire story and entices the reader to read on. It is important that the first few sentences of a story grab the reader’s attention. Young writers often fall into the trap of beginning with a generic lead that...

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Satisfying Endings

Nov 4, 2009 by

Writing Trait/Strategy: organization Mentor Text Suggestions: Bat Loves the Night by Nicola Davies Just Like Daddy by Frank Asch The Little Yellow Leaf by Carin Berger Rain by Manya Stojic Treasures of the Heart by Alice Ann Miller Big Mama’s by Donald Crews Birthday Presents by Cynthia Rylant Fireflies by Julie Brinckloe Saturdays and Teacakes by Lester Laminack Description: A conclusion that leaves a final impression on the reader is just as important as an attention-grabbing lead. Students fall into traps with conclusions just as they do with leads. When students don’t know how to end a story, they will wind up saying something like: “And then I went home and went to bed.” “That is the end of my story.” “I hope you liked my story.” “I woke up and it was all a dream.” To help them avoid these traps, teach...

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Asking Questions

Nov 4, 2009 by

Writing Trait/Strategy: Adding details; organization Description: Some young writers have difficulty clearly conveying their message on paper. They know what they want to write about but struggle to capture their thoughts on paper in a way that is clear to the reader. This mini-lesson helps students see the need to clarify their information and include enough details for the reader. Model this technique by writing a “story” on the overhead or chart paper: My brother has a dog. Ask students what they think of your story. Most will say that you need to write more. Ask students what they want to know about your dog. They will ask questions such as, “What is its name? Where did you get it? What does it look like?” Write a second draft of your story, including answers...

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