Have you ever had this experience? You try something out, and it just doesn’t work? Well, this happened to me the other day. I had a lofty idea that my students would be able to take one of three leads that we had worked with before and revise a lead from a story they wrote in their journals previously. I had them rewrite a lead using mentor text we had seen before. My students assured me they knew what to do. However, when I checked their work, it turned out they were all confused.
I decided to take that failed lesson and use it to my advantage. I realized that I had released the responsibility too early. I took the training wheels off the bike too soon. Today, I worked with the students to analyze the mentor text we used for leads. We looked at each example more closely. Each student had a copy of the sample leads. We wrote notes in the margins of our paper to help us think about the author’s plan.
After analyzing the different leads, I gave the students a story to read about a park ranger. As they read, they were to highlight all the info that showed the perks of being a park ranger. Then, we brainstormed all the reasons that supported our topic. We actually put evidence to that effect on another sheet of paper. After much discussion and brainstorming, it was time to write. I felt that this went smoothly. Students could take information from their brainstorm sheet and include it in their writing. Since we analyzed the leads and talked about characteristics of each, I felt like the students had a better understanding of how to start their opinion pieces.
At the end of the writing workshop period, I asked the students to sit at the meeting area to talk about this writing experience. They liked the idea that we looked closely at each lead. We read sample leads and we analyzed them. We looked at the author’s moves in each passage. The students wrote notes in the margins of their copy of the leads. My students also liked the idea that I had retyped the story about park rangers so they could highlight and mark up the text.
We are still working on these opinion papers in class. Tomorrow, I will collect them and see what the students come up with. I felt great about this lesson. But, more importantly, the students felt good, too.