Friday, March 2, 2012

Narrative: Is this really Kindergarten?

I have been watching a series of lessons on narrative writing in a Kindergarten classroom that have just blown me away!  Below is an example of one student's narrative story.  She has worked on this one story for a couple of weeks - an accomplishment itself for such a young writer! The red indicates where she used a red pen to edit her story.
It was a really chilly (red pen edited from the word cold) in my glass room.  I was freezing. Brrrrr.
Mom didn't know what was wrong with Shadow. Shadow was eating.  Hmmmm.  Shadow was eating - crunch - mulch with germs in there.  I was frightened.  I screamed on top of my lungs, "MOM!"
I didn't know what to do.  Ahaaaaaa.  Mom got an idea.  Mom went outside - creak - and mom took my hula hoop - chch - and shook the hula hoop at Shadow and Shadow ran away from the mulch.  Shadow is a yellow lab.
Make sure you watch your dog if you have mulch because maybe your dog will eat your mulch up.  I hope you learned a lesson.

I hope you can see all the lessons that were taught that are evidenced in this student's work.  First of all, children were taught to think of a "story" with a main character, a setting and then a problem and a solution  Then they learned to think through the beginning, middle, and end of their story by telling the story over their fingers (a Lucy Calkins technique).  They started with the characters and the setting in the beginning of their story, as you can clearly see in this work (Shadow is the main character and the author is in her glass room - the Florida Room on the back of her house.)  The students then thought about a problem with the main character and finally a solution.  After they had written the beginning, middle and end, they were taught to develop a closing for the story instead of the typical kindergarten closing of "The End."  This work clearly shows that closing by telling the reading to watch dogs eating mulch and hoping the reader learned a lesson!  Students were taught to make sure that their pictures matched their words and in these pictures the student has even labeled  much of her work. 

But this teacher took it even further.  This is kindergarten and this child is using a red pen to edit her work!  Oh my!  One of the extension lessons was about choosing extraordinary words to replace ordinary words ( a vocabulary in synonyms!)  This was actually a series of lessons where students chose words and then brainstormed some extraordinary words they could use in small groups.  This work was transferred to a word wall that students were taught to use.

The teacher also took a group of six of her top flyers and taught them to use the Thesaurus on the Microsoft Word program so that as she taught the class to replace words using their own imaginations and the word wall, she taught this small group to replace words using the Thesaurus - which is what this student did with the word "cold" changing it to chilly.  She set up six laptops at the back of the room for these students to use.  This is a skill that these students will use for the rest of their writing careers!

The next series of lessons were on writing craft, onomatopoeia.  You can easily see how this child was able to add in these sound words with her red pen!

To continually assess the work the teacher used a rubric as she worked through each part of the narrative standard. She worked with the students to write each element, adding them one at a time, deciding with the students what would be a 1-2-3 for each part of the rubric. (S on the rebric stands for strategies which were the extention lessons.)
The children self-assessed by dropping a popsicle stick in one of the 1-2-3 buckets at the end of each element lesson.  The amazing thing is that as they dropped the popsicle stick in a 1 or 2 most of them were each able to talk about what they needed to move their stick to the next number point.

What is astounding about this unit of work is that the teacher had 18 of her 35 students exceed the class rubric (which far exceeded the kindergarten standard for narrative writing) by forming a story with a beginning, middle and end and by editing their work to include both extraordinary words and onomatopoeia!  She actually pushed her student well past the standard simply because she had so many students ready for the enrichment! WOW!

Update:  I had a very angry e-mail from a reader after this post that told me to quit posting writing that obviously a parent had done!  I had to laugh, realizing how little some teachers expect from their kindergartners!