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Thursday, November 17, 2016

When it works...

I've always wondered what awesome mini-lessons really look like.

I mean, I know, and I've even taught them.

But the formula kind of alludes me.

My timing is always off.

Kids always either under or over perform.

Discussions take off in unexpected directions.

Behaviors take off in unexpected directions.

The first ten minutes is rife with interruptions.

NaNoWriMo has forced me to redouble my efforts to make this work.

The kids need instruction, motivation, and interaction.

They also need smaller grades along the way.

I am constantly identifying things I can teach them pretty easily.

Honestly, in general, I am gradually getting better at them.

My focus is improving, as is my planning, timing, and scope.

Today, though, was one of the first times where I was like, "Oh, that's how it works!"

It wasn't a genius idea or anything either.

In fact, I stole the idea from the internet (where most great teacher ideas are found, let's face it.)

We made a simple chart based on a even simpler sentence.

The sentence was something like John climbed up the stairs.

We divided the sentence into three sections: noun, verb, object.

Then we added a column on the left and titled it mood.

I placed the word "excited" in the mood column

Then I asked students what verb we should use to make the sentence match the mood.

They gave me a variety of responses different hours like bounded, skipped, and danced.

We moved on to describing John.

The suggestions included Smiling, or With a huge grin, or Excitedly,

Next we talked about the stairs and how we could adjust the description of the stairs to further the mood.

Students came up with things like brightly lit, or cheery, chilly.

Finally, we discussed how we could also layer descriptive language into our action sentences.

Instead of describing the stairs to further the mood, we can add texture to the place.

We talked about the difference between a wide stairwell (like a school) or a creaky wooden staircase (like a haunted house) or a tight spiral staircase (like a tower).

We even discussed how to describe stairs without saying stairs: a tight, iron spiral curling down into the dark.

After we had explored, maybe even exhausted, all the possibilities, we changed the mood.

I let them choose.

Some hours they opted for scary and sad, others were more subtle: nervous or irritated.

We repeated the exercise three to five, depending on the class.

That was it.

I set them free to write with reminder that length is important, but strength is what really matters.

To make your writing powerful, choose your words wisely.

Seriously managed to do this lesson in about 10 minutes in every class.

Kids got it, and used it.

Unlike some other days, almost no one had trouble getting started and writing voraciously.

Good things abound!

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