As a teacher we all have our strengths and weaknesses. Well writing has always been my area of struggle. Let’s be real, I was teaching kindergarten and getting those babies to draw a picture and write from it, was challenging. So many skills go into getting them to move through the progression of writing, phonics, letter formations, grammar and capitalization to name a few. Whew! I’m sure just their heads were spinning just as much as my own. This year, I moved to third grade where I am feeling more in my wheel house than ever. I am ever-so thankful for my experience in kindergarten and the lessons it taught me.
This summer, I showed up to third grade with the mindset that I would tackle writing as my area to become an expert in. I read, planned, collaborated, and pinned about 100 pins on Pinterest over the summer. I was pumped and ready! Using the rubrics from our district’s writing curriclum, Write from the Beginning and Beyond, I graded my first writing assessment. I remember sitting on my couch and having this unwavering anxiety consume me. At the end, I sat staring at my class average. “Is that right?” I asked myself. I went back through all 25 papers to make sure I wasn’t misinterpreting the rubric or missing something. Nope! Those scores were accurate, with 20 points possible, my class average was a 2.
Yikes! This was my reality. I looked at the data to begin my plan of attack, I heard a quiet voice in my head say “LET YOUR DATA SPEAK TO YOU!” We spend so much time, energy, and resources collecting data on our students, USE IT. I noticed there was one area in particular which would boost, not only my students’ ability to write, but also my class average. I decided I would start with one paragraph at a time: write a topic sentence and support it.
My time in kindergarten taught me to bring abstract ideas and concepts to conceptual, concrete learning. I decided what better way to bring this to my third graders than using their five senses. In this delivery, I was able to bring in adjectives, expanded sentences, and the ability to change words into something tangible. We wrote a procedural paper on making a Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwich.
The first day of the lesson I handed out pieces of bread. We discussed whole class about how the bread looked, smelled, felt, and tasted. The class was a little leery, I mean, this crazy teacher is giving everyone a slice of bread! We brainstormed our thoughts using a tree map. The pressing question was how could they use words to depict a mental image in the person reading it. Again they looked at me like I was crazy but I saw it slowly transferring into their writing. I finished that lesson feeling like I was onto something pretty special.
The next day, students received a spoon with some peanut butter on it. Once again they had to describe it. I think the peanut butter was the best part of this paper. My class began to show their understanding in their ability to apply it in their writing. Adjectives and supporting sentences, OH MY! Once again, I left that lesson with a little more pep in my step!
For our third paragraph, students tasted grape jelly. Some of the details were amazing; too sweet, it made my teeth hurt, tastes like medicine to name a few. Using the gradual release model, my students were now creating their thinking maps and writing independently.
The closing paragraph was used to reflect upon how all three of these ingredient tasted once they came together. My class came in one morning where my desk had been hijacked by peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Each student received a half, as they ate these delicious snacks, some of their descriptions of the ingredients changed when they came together. For example, the jelly now added a perfect amount of sweetness paired next to the salty peanut butter.
The last mini lesson we discussed was what it meant to create a hook to increase interest to your potential readers. I did not provide anything to stimulate any creativity and low and behold, this amazing title appeared.
Yes, you read that correctly. It’s peanut butter jelly time! Seeing this I was singing it all day long..”Now where he at?” I left a link to the video in the event you have not seen this amazingly addicting and entertaining video!
As you see, from the student work I showed, I still have a long way to go. However, the growth they showed in this lesson, was tremendous. As we have moved on in our writing, this has been an awesome tool to make a connection to the skill I am looking for. I will at times, refer to certain things as “this is our bread” or this is our “sandwich” and the class can apply what they learned in those lessons.
Thanks for reading and please, comment below with strategies that have brought so much purpose and meaning to your writing lessons.