Aha Moments on Teaching Personal Narratives

This summer during the Teacher’s College Writing Summer Institute I had a few good “aha moments”. I was in a week long workshop with Mary Ehrenworth (She’s amazing!!!) on teaching nonfiction to students and I learned so much. Some of these moments came out of the writing sessions with her.

Aha Moment #1: Model a Few Different Topics of Writing

Mary told us she would model a few types of nonfiction writing pieces during mini-lessons throughout the nonfiction unit. Instead of modeling just one piece of nonfiction writing with the students, she writes a few different nonfiction pieces with her students. When she modeled her writing with her students, she specifically chose topics that she thought were types of stories her students would be interested in writing. I did a similar thing when I shared my personal narrative writing. I shared writing I did about a soccer game (my boys LOVE playing soccer), my dog minnie (kids love pet stories), and watching Yuna Kim skate (Korean hero!).

Aha Moment #2: Allow Students to Publish More Than 1 Piece for a Unit

Mary suggested that we have the students work on more than 1 piece during a unit. One way that happens is that when students finish revising and editing their first piece, they start writing the next one. It sounds so simple and obvious, but I don’t think I was the only teacher in the room having this new revelation. Some students will feel finished with their piece and be ready to publish it quickly. This is not necessarily a bad thing. If they are ready to publish their piece, they can work on starting a second piece.

Last year I had some students finish editing and revising their work quickly and after that they didn’t really have anything to do. So this year, during our personal narratives unit, I kept telling my students that if they felt finished with their piece, they can start working on a second one. Right now, I have a handful of students working on their second piece and many students still working on editing their first piece. I’m so excited for their publishing party on Friday!

Aha Moment #3: Make the rubric specific on what the students writing should show.

This aha moment came last week, when our literacy specialist asked me about what rubric I used to assess their personal narratives. I remember last year when I used the rubric I wasn’t really 100% pleased with the format even though it looked nice and had the standard sections (writing process, mechanics & qualities of personal narrative writing). She suggested that I divide up some of the categories so they are more specific on what I expected students had learned and shown in their personal narrative. Therefore, the students will also get better feedback on what parts of their writing they need to improve. It’s great finally having a literacy specialist to support us! πŸ™‚

So I decided to revamp the whole thing! I included a self assessment section where students will mark how they think they did. I think that it will be valuable insight to see where they think their writing is.

I also made a more specific checklist on areas that I particularly emphasized in my mini-lessons and conferences throughout the unit. You can DL my new and improved rubric on scribd.com here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/38232040

If you use it, or use some parts of it, let me know how it is! Feedback is always appreciated. πŸ™‚

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