This week was important in our writing work, and it was all about reading. As a class, we spent writing class reading The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo. Students created in class dictionaries in which they could log new vocabulary and definitions. They were required to answer questions to help with comprehension. This they did in their Bellwork Journals. Students created a list of common notations which they listed in the front of the book. As we read, students followed along with a finger or a writing implement as either I read to them or a student read aloud. We stopped to put a notation in the margins whenever I heard a student make a sound in reaction to what we were reading. Students also had predictions as we read along. These were also written next to the text. Finally, students wrote connections they made to the reading in their books. At the end of the process, all the students stated either through “think/feel” cards or writing in their journals that they had made a real connection and that they were able to think deeply about the story.
On Wednesday, the returning students (with me guiding and helping) led the new students through the plot of the story using a chart which allows them to label the problem, climax, and steps up to the climax. For which the returning students did a brilliant job!
On Thursday, we checked them against each other. All the groups used different language, but came up with similar summaries of the plot. Then returning students began to lead the new students through an outline on our way to writing the summary.
In order to support students’ understanding of paragraphing, we looked at fiction and non-fiction paragraphs, looking for similarities. We talked about a paragraph being the building blocks of writing. We read through a six paragraph essay about Paulo Coehlo and underlined topic sentences. Students quickly learned to look for the sentence which held the overall general idea.
I was impressed with the 5th and 6th graders’ commitment to understanding, the depth at which they found meaning, and their desire to get as much out of a reading session as was possible. It’s been a good few weeks.