Now that your Writer’s Workshop program is up and running you need to make sure children are able to make strides through the year. This means that by the end of the year their stories should show evidence of increased complexity and their publication attempts should display more creativity. This does not happen without guidance. I typically model a different writing project a week. I write the story for the kids and then edit it with them all on the overhead projector. Leave mistakes in the draft for the editing part but tell the kids ahead of time to ignore mistakes during the draft phase.
For fiction writing I find at fifth grade level, particularly when children haven’t been given lots of opportunity in previous grades for real writing in a Writer’s Workshop setting, that they have no idea how to structure a fiction story. I use a story frame with the children that starts with the character, and then ask them to define the problem for the character, and then instruct them to list five major details that are to happen to the main character in the story, and then ask them to tell me how the problem is to be resolved in the end.
Group Brainstorm for Ideas
As a whole group, ask children to think of a character for a class story. Go around the room and take suggestions. Choose a character arbitrarily and list it on the overhead form. Most recently the children in my class suggested an owl be the character. More specifically they wanted it to be a white owl that had phobias. They helped me next to define Owl’s problem. One student offered that the owl might begin losing his friendships with the other animals after starting school at Owl Owlmentary because he becomes arrogant. I wrote down their suggestion in the problem space.
I proceeded to collect major plot details from them. Some of the ideas strayed from the Owl and his problem and so I told them that because their suggestions didn’t seem to fit the character’s problem that we would have to put it aside. After collecting five good solid plot details I asked for suggestions about how Owl was going to get resolution to his problem. One suggestion I got was that his animal friends at school would start teasing him for being afraid of things and so he learns that his other friends are true friends.
Writing the Story
In the next session you can write the first draft with them by modeling how to use the story frame to make a story. While writing I will use descriptive words, metaphors and other literary tools to show them how to build a more interesting story. In the third part of the lesson series I’ll edit purposefully orchestrated mistakes within the story with their help. I’ll invite someone in the class to publish it at the very end.
The forms I used to model story structure I will leave out in a folder for them to use during the Writer’s Workshop period. Encourage the kids to use them whenever they are planning a fiction story.