Thursday, October 29, 2015

Thursday Thoughts: Wordless Books & Writing

My teacher partner and I were in a writing rut! Our students needed a short and simple way to practice realistic fiction writing skills. Then, we had this brain child... could we use wordless picture books as a backdrop or "bookdrop" as I like to call it for their writing. This would eliminate some of the brainstorm stages that we practice with other pieces.

This summer, through the amazing Stacey at Literacy for Big Kids, I discovered the amazing picture book - Bluebird by Bob Staake. I wasn't sure how I wanted to use it in my classroom at the start of the year so I put it in my mentor text box and sort of forgot about it. After going through book after book for ideas last Friday -- my partner and I came across my copy of Bluebird. After reading the first few pages again, we both instantly knew that our unit had to center around Bluebird!

After "reading" the book on Tuesday, we started our mini-lessons on Wednesday. It was time to see if our idea was going to take root with our students! One of our first lessons was to focus on using show-not-tell to make readers feel part of the setting. We used Ralph Fletcher's Hello, Harvest Moon as our author's mentor text. I typed up the text for each student. As I read I did a lot of modeling and noticing. As I read and did my think aloud, students followed along and highlighted for setting details, figurative language, and vivid verbs.

We talked about how Mr. Fletcher chose the "best" words to describe the harvest moon. {Seriously, this book is sooooo great!} So, it was our duty to give our best words to Bluebird. I let students choose their favorite scene from Bluebird to offer choice and I put a few of my favorite pages on the SMARTboard for those that needed less choices.

I did write an example using the very first page of the story. I think showing that I'm a writer and {definitely} not the best writer, really helps boost some confidence in my reluctant writers.

Here's my example:

Then, I set a timer, put on some Piano Guys, and let them write for me. 

So what was the result? I was absolutely blown away by my students' use of author's craft plus they were excited to give Bluebird words! No moans or groans and even my reluctant writers were putting words on a page!

My final thoughts? It just goes to show the power of a story, with or without words. I can't wait to see more of my students writing using our favorite scenes from Bluebird. We're going to be working on characterization, dialogue, and show not tell next week.

What are your thoughts on using wordless books in the classroom?



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