Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Dogs or the Library: Let 1st Graders Decide! (retitled)

Last week I started a writing project in a first grade class at the local school. Since I am home these days, I am doing this as a volunteer. I had been going 3-4 times each week during writing time to get to know the kids in all three first grade classes, but this was the beginning of the project.

Mrs. Smith picked the seven best writers in her class to be in the first group with me (all names have been changed to protect the innocent). The plan was that the group would follow a basic writer's workshop approach and end with the publication of the book. Although Mrs. Smith and I did not speak of technology (other than typing), I am hoping to find a way to digitize the final product.

Anyway, back to last week's session. The eight of us went to the Rug in the library and sat in a circle. The students were literally bouncing as we began. I asked each student to write a few ideas for topics for a non-fiction* book that we would publish together (in order mentioned). The we shared the ideas:
  • Getting a puppy
  • Rules of 1st Grade (to give to kindergarten students)
  • Books in the library
  • Dogs
  • Snowboarding
  • Whales
  • Dolphins
  • DisneyWorld
  • Plants and animals
  • Time and spacee
  • Snowmen and the person who would be making one
  • A mouse that scared a girl

It was at this point that I focused the discussion and asked the students to narrow down the list. We ended up with four finalists:
  • Rules of 1st Grade (to give to kindergarten students)
  • Books in the library
  • Dogs
  • Snowmen and the person who would be making one

The Library won a vote of four to two with one abstention. Mrs. Books, the librarian, was thrilled!

Some notes about the students in the group (again, all names have been changed).
  • John was barely focused, needed constant redirection.
  • Jane was quiet, sat slightly out of the circle, seemed to give the most thought to her comments.
  • Steve was boisterous and offered suggestions that we completely personal to him (snowboarding and getting a puupy)
  • Mary really disliked one of the topics suggested and could not let it go - even when it was not chosen she continued.
  • Sally began to take charge and got bossy with John for a while.
  • Susan had the most trouble writing down her ideas. Clearly smart, but the weakest skills in the group.
  • Danny sat outside of the circle - a place I think he often sits. Deep ideas (time and space), low skills so far.
My plan for future sessions includes the students completing some pre-writing, drafting, editing, typing, drawing, and compiling. We'll see how it goes.

* Grant Wiggins had not yet written his blog post, Ban Fiction From the Curriculum, about banning fiction. It's just that the teacher and I agreed that non-fiction would be an easier way to keep the students focused.

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