Have you ever wondered why you are compelled to drink several cups of coffee or cans of pop just to get through your students’ writing samples? (Did I hook you with my question - one way in which a writer can begin a piece!)
Christopher Paolini was only 15 years old when he wrote the first draft of Eragon .
As teachers, we need to provide examples, opportunities and feedback to help our students learn one of the most difficult traits to master...organization.
Organization is just like it sounds: *Creating a writing piece that catches our interest, is easy to follow, and finishes with a BANG! Sound simple? Not quite. In fact, everything that I have read about organization says that it is the most important yet hardest trait to teach. So, are you ready?
Organization can be broken down into three parts: Beginning Middle End And...students are masters of introducing a subject, telling something about it, and writing: The End.
The Beginning 'The last thing one knows in constructing a work is what to put first.' Blaise Pascal
Many students get frustrated when beginning a piece of writing: How do I start?? Students need to be taught different ways to begin a piece of writing. They will gain confidence and be more ready to try. It will be important that you give your students the opportunity to try different ways to begin - eventually, they will choose the one that is most appropriate for their piece.
Quick Lesson: Pointing out beginnings of books to the entire class: * When choosing a new book to read out loud, read the first few sentences of 3 different books and let the students choose the one that catches their interest (do not let them see the title or cover of these books) * When reading aloud to students, point out how the author begins the story. (Did the author use any of the techniques that you have taught - is there a new suggestion to add to the starter list? Does the beginning create a desire to want to read this story?)
**Lights, Camera, Action: The writer makes something happen - right away there is action in the story! **Single Word: An important word to the beginning of the story is all by itself. Makes the reader want to know more about that word. The author follows up with more information. **Imagine This: The author shows an interesting picture or a sentence that creates a mental image in the reader’s mind. **Fascinating Fact: The writer presents an interesting - fascinating - surprising - disgusting piece of information **It’s Just My Opinion: The writer shares with the reader something he/she believes in. **Listen Up: The writer uses sounds (onomatopoeia) to intrigue the reader to find out more about what is creating the sound. (Smack, snap, ugh!) **I Wonder: The writer uses a question or several questions to make the reader wonder/think.
Do you know what books these beginnings belong to?
1. A mother held her new baby and very slowly rocked him back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. (picture book)
2 . If you are interested in stories with happy endings, you would be better off reading some other book. In this book, not only is there no happy ending, there is no happy beginning and very few happy things in the middle. (chapter book)
Answer: The Bad Beginning A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket
3. ________ _________ was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarlton twins were. (Classic)
Answer: Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
4. “Tom!” No answer. “ Tom!” No answer. “ What’s gone with that boy, I wonder. You, Tom!” No answer. (classic)
Answer: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
5. Two thousand years ago, a very small group of people captured the attention and fascinated the imaginations of the entire western world. At first, they were thought to be of no consequence, the followers of a man most people considered to be nothing more than an itinerant preacher. (one we should all know!)
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Working with Middles: *Discuss how things are organized: books in library, grocery store, kitchen utensils, classroom - and WHY? *Take a short story - or the main ideas from a story that you have read - and put the ideas on sentence strips or on the overhead (cut pieces so that they can be moved). Ask the class if they can put the story in order. Retell the story - sound good? Now, mix up the order of the story to see if it makes sense... Then, talk with students about the importance of organization and why certain sentences belong before or after others.
Middles may written... ...in chronological order ...in order of importance ... to compare-and-contrast ideas ...to examine cause and effect relationships ...to predict what happens next
Graphic Organizers (“The Middle Masters”) Great way to help students gather ideas and move them around before the actual writing!
The Ending 'The end of a novel, like the end of a children's dinner-party, must be made up of sweetmeats and sugar-plums.' Anthony Trollope in Barchester Towers
**Just like beginnings, students need to be taught several different ways to end a story. **Students will feel more confident when finishing a story if they have some strategies for conclusion!! When reading aloud to students - reread the ending several times and discuss the way the author chose to end the story. Why? Could s/he have ended it in a different way? How? Do you like the way the author ended the story? Why/why not?
**A Wise/Profound Thought: The writer teaches us a lesson. **A Surprise: Something to catch the reader off guard. **A Quote: A final expression from one of the characters. **A Tie-Up: The writer brings it all together. **A Question or Open-Ended Statement: A character questions something that seems a bit unusual or strange - yet may not know the entire story. **A Summary: Make key points one last time. **A Challenge: The writer gives a character something to do. The writer challenges the reader to take action. **A Sign of What is to Come: The writer leads into a sequel... **A Laugh: Humor to sum it up! **A Literary Device: Figurative language - metaphor, simile, irony, imagery, onomatopoeia, hyperbole
‘ Learn to write well, or not to write at all’ John Sheffield, First Duke of Buckingham and Normandy