Thursday, December 5, 2013

Expository Writing and The Book Whisperer

I have obviously not stuck to my goal of blogging once a week, so thank you for sticking by my side!  So many wonderful things have happened so far this year, and as always, life has been overcome with busyness.  There are a few things that inspired me to pick up my laptop and write a post today.

First of all, I have started to read Donalyn Miller's The Book Whisperer.  It was talked about on many blogs this summer, and I have chosen it for my professional development book this year.  Donalyn is an inspiration to all teachers, readers, and parents.  I love what she says about inspiring young readers and making a reader out of anyone and everyone.  Basically, to awaken the inner reader, you need to give the kids time to read books and help them find books they enjoy.  She has her students read 40 books a year.  I have my students read for fun, but most of them are still in the phase of reading just to fulfill the requirement.  Another crucial step is that you (as the teacher, reader, or parent) need to help students find books that they will enjoy.  Donalyn has an extensive classroom library and knowledge of books.  While I enjoy reading, and have a small classroom library, I do not have the knowledge that I feel I need to help my students find books.  I love the idea of putting my books in bins by genre and knowing the level, but it is overwhelming to know where to begin.  I hope that this will be something that I can spend more time on throughout the year and summer (I know, I'm really thinking ahead).  I want to inspire my students and create life-long readers within my classroom.  Thank you, Donalyn, for your wise words.

I also want to talk about writing.  Throughout my years as a teacher, I have had my students do countless writing assignments.  This year I made a very specific writing plan for my students, so they knew what to expect.  I have about two assignments in each genre- expository, narrative , and argumentative.  It is interesting though, that the majority of my past assignments have been narrative and argumentative.  So now it is time to teach my students how to write an expository essay.  The goal of the assignment is to build background knowledge for reading Anne Frank's Diary.  I had about ten topic choices, and instead of assigning them, I let students pick what they wanted to research.  I gave them some website resources, directed them to use easybib, and told them to start with general note taking.  At this point, I need to figure out the next step.  In doing some research, I have determined that I want to review the organizational patterns, as these are often used as organizations for expository essays.  I was thinking of doing a foldable, so that is what I am in search of now.  Even though we are primarily using chromebooks this year and going "paper-free," I think switching things up will invigorate the class.   After reviewing the organizational patterns, I would like the students to pick an organization for their essay and start drafting.  I decided that I would complete the assignment as well, to model it for my students, and it is quite difficult.  Most of the topics have lots of information and require background knowledge to fully understand them.  Why is it so easy to make a powerpoint or a prezi, but not to take that same information and write it into a paper?   I am sure the students do this in Social Studies all the time, and yet, now it is designed to help them build background information.  What are your thoughts?  Have you ever done anything like this before?  Let me know because I am thinking that this might not be the best way to teach expository writing.  Maybe the students already need to have sufficient prior knowledge to write a cohesive paper.

Hope to hear your ideas!