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Home : 2002 : Apr : 17

    By Kathy

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    I taught third grade for nine years and we always did a variety of things with writing. We did use journals. At the beginning of the year I did give them almost daily prompts. It helped me to get to know them better. Some sample prompts would be: After school I like to... The best field trip I ever took was... One thing I like to do with my family is.... I would encourage them to write at least a paragraph.

    And, yes, I tried to respond to them almost every time so that they could see they were writing to a "real" audience. One of my first assignments was to have them write me a letter and tell me about themselves. I always took the time to write back to them and pasted my letter under theirs in the journal. (It was rather time consuming--but went faster when I did it via computer and then "cut and paste" my replies into the journals.)

    I also had them write a letter to their parents for Back to School night (Only parents came in this particular school and we had a chance to talk to the group of parents about goals, routines, etc.) They left their journals out on their desks open to their letters and I encouraged the parents to write back. (Another "real" audience!) They really wrote some very affirming notes to the children.

    After the first few weeks I used journals intermittently in connection with things we were studying about or reading. It's a good way to get them to clarify their thinking. We would do this at least twice a week.

    I also had the children do a Writing Workshop 3 days a week for 45 minutes where they could choose their own topics and go through the writing process. This seems to be a great favorite. In fact, when I left the school a parent had students from the nine years I taught write me notes and Writing Workshop was one of the things that was mentioned most often! And my 3-4 students this year are extremely upset if anything keeps them from Writing Workshop. (It's almost as sacred to them as P.E. or recess!!)

    Another thing I loved to do with them was a lot of poetry. The thing I love about poems is that it teaches them to write descriptively, use word wisely, and learn rhythm. Also, since poems are shorter, it's easier for them to take a poem through the whole process and come up with a finished product.

    I used pattern poems at first. For example, The Leaf Lullaby.
    ___________, __________ leaf, ______________
    ___________ ________ into your _______ bed.
    Dream of _________________________________.
    __________, __________leaf, _____________

    I would play some soft music and they would pretend to be leaves floating down from the tree. (Being able to stand on their chair was a big hit!) Then we would brainstorm lists of words. How does a leaf move? Float, glide, twirl, whirl, slide, flip.... Then make a list of adverbs...gently, quietly, softly, rapidly, gracefully.... Some words that tell how a leaf looks beautiful, golden, oak, maple.... Then we might talk about what a leaf might dream of.

    The finished product might look something like this:
    Whirl, golden leaf, whirl.
    Twirl silently into your leafy bed.
    Dream of warm summer days.
    Whirl, golden leaf, whirl.

    This--along with a number of other writing patterns--is found in the book: Writing and Art Go Hand in Hand. It's filled with forms like these along with neat art projects to illustrate them.

    I use these sparingly and always encourage a child to make variations if they wish, but I've found that rather than stifling creativity it almost guarantees success. Even the most reluctant writer can pull out a pretty decent "word picture" just by using words from the brainstorm list. And most of them go way beyond!

    Well, didn't mean to go on and on...but would encourage you to use a variety of writing with your third graders. Think you'll love it. I sure did!

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