Let’s Try That Again

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.


Writing Leads

For the past few weeks my 2nd grade students have been working on the text type of opinion writing.  In an effort to break away from the monotony of formulaic writing, I introduced my students to different types of leads using mentor texts.  I used the book, Nonfiction Mentor Texts, by Lynne R. Dorfman and Rose Cappelli to help me.

NF Mentor Text

My students were familiar with the “Setting the Scene” lead because we had used it when we were working on narratives.  So, I had my students write a potential setting the scene lead to go with the article we just read about Mopane Worms.  From there, I introduced my students to the “Share a Secret” lead.  I shared examples from mentor texts and had the students try it out for themselves, again to go with our article.  Finally, I showed my students an example of a “What If” lead.  I had the students try one on themselves.  The great thing is my students can use these different kinds of leads when we look at the text type of informative writing.

It was kind of amazing what they came up with.  My student teacher, who was observing, commented after the lesson.  She was amazed at how the students were able to come up with their own creative leads in the style of the different mentor texts I shared.  All the students were engaged and excited.  I figure I have given them a few more tools to add to their writing toolbox.  Next week, the students will write their rough draft convincing their friend to eat the Mopane Worm.  They are even going to get a chance to write a counterargument in this paragraph.  Although, the counterargument is not a 2nd grade standard, I talked to my kids about it anyway.  I am fairly certain that I will not get 27 papers that sound exactly the same.  Thank goodness!