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Friday, October 23, 2015

NaNoWriMo in the Classroom

Hi all!

It’s Stephanie from The Marvelous Middle and I am here to share something MARVELOUS going on in my classroom. NaNoWriMo is about ready to happen and for the first time, I’m asking my young authoring students to come along for the ride. November is National Novel Writing Month, which pushes people to write a novel (50,000 minimum word count) during that month. They also have a Young Writers Program that allows students to set their own word count goals and complete their own novels. So this year, the stars have aligned and I have been able to put in the extra time to get this program going with my students.A whole novel you ask? Yes and they looked at me as I’m sure you are looking at the screen right now! After the shock wore off a bit, I explained that they were in total control of their writing destiny and we would be our own community of writers. So with November on the horizon, we began preparing today. We discussed what makes a “good” book and what makes a “bad” book. We talked about how it’s important as authors to understand that our novel must have some characteristics that appeal to readers. I asked the students to share with me their own opinions of qualities of “good” and “bad” books. Below are a few of their responses:

“A good book in my opinion is one that is fast moving. The book has to flow swiftly and smoothly. It needs action, lots of action. I want to see the story in my head. I love mythology books with Cyclopes, centaurs, gods, demi-gods, dragons, etc. I need the book to have interesting battles and a very strong climax. I need the book to hook me almost from the beginning, not half way through the story.”
Poetry seems unimportant and unorganized in my mind, so it does not interest me.  Most people find poetry interesting and exciting, but everyone is entitled to their own opinion.”
“A book that has no conflict is a book I am NOT reading.”
“To me a bad book, is a book that tries to please everybody by taking the newest thing and making a book about it.”
“A good book should make me shove my face in it and never stop reading it!”
“Science fiction books appeal to me because the things that happen aren’t in everyday life, you just can’t walk out your front door and sun flares hit the Earth.”
“I think it’s a great way of writing always leaving your reader on the edge of their seat, making them want to keep reading and reading on. When I say that they should leave you in suspense that doesn’t mean that they should stop the chapter in the middle of a sentence, it means that say a girl gets kidnaped and the cops are about to go to the scene and they make a wrong turn per say that’s where the chapter would end in my opinion. You want to know what’s going to happen now that they are not on the right track.”
Next week, we will start to look at what makes a character interesting and seeing that strong characters move the story along. Then beginning on plot structure by the end of the week. We will be ready to start writing our literary masterpieces November 2.I am most looking forward to my students realizing that authors don’t typically just throw a novel together and need to go through a process. My students struggle with revision, regardless of how many times we have talked about its importance. I’m hoping that writing a novel and seeing that revision is critical will begin to open their eyes to more than just getting words down on paper. And it still remains a good lesson for me, too. I will be taking my own NaNoWriMo challenge of writing a 50,000 word novel in November.  If you would like to join me, information can be found at our young authors through the process on my blog, The Marvelous MiddleIf you would like more information about NaNoWriMo Young Writers Program, go to

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Introductory Paragraph Writing

Hey everyone!

Wanted to share a quick overview of how we teach introductory paragraph writing in our classrooms (we've taught 4th grade, up to 12th grade, and all levels in between). This overview should be helpful for whatever grade you are currently making a difference in :)

The basic outline of an introductory paragraph is as follows: TAG (title, author, genre), Summary, and Claim (or Thesis).

This is the first sentence of the introductory paragraph and it should always include the Title, the Author, and the Genre (in whatever order the students choose). It's really important to include at TAG at or near the beginning of your paper, so your reader knows what you're writing about!

The summary is the next 2-3 (maybe 4) sentences of the intro paragraph and it should summarize the text students will be writing about.

The claim is the LAST sentence of the introductory paragraph and should state the student's basic answer to the question from the prompt or whatever it is that they are trying to prove.

It all seems pretty easy in theory, but when put in to practice it can be a nightmare. I swear, I would have some students at the end of the year who would put their claim in the first sentence. It is what it is I guess!

We created a neat graphic organizer for you that you can download for FREE by clicking here. Also, feel free to stop by our TPT store if you're looking for a great Halloween FREEBIE or an entire Poe Halloween Unit (which is currently 50% off!) to use next week leading up to Halloween!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Basic Paragraph Structure (A Systematic Introduction to Embedding Quotes)

Hey there, everyone! It's Taliena from Koch's Odds 'N Ends and I'm here to share with you how I introduce students to embedding quotes. I don't know about you, but the curriculum I teach asks my students to not only embed quotes into their writing but to be doing so flawlessly for our big research paper that we do in December. I'm tasked with the overwhelming responsibility to teach them this skill from the ground up. I have found that the easiest way to do this is to first teach it as a systematic formula.

I usually begin by having my students paste the notes handout below into their notebooks to use as a reference as we practice.
This notes handout is a freebie on my TeacherspayTeachers store!

Topic Sentence- the main idea of the paragraph (I like to point out to students that this isn't new. A topic sentence is still a topic sentence)
Evidence- specific examples (proof) from the text that help develop the main idea from the topic sentence
Commentary- sentences that explain and develop the ideas from the evidence and main idea (I like to use sports commentators as a way to help explain what commentary is. I ask what a commentator does and draw similarities to help define this new word)
Concluding Sentence- the very last sentence of the paragraph that should be thought-provoking and should summarize the main points of the article (once again, I like to point out that this idea isn't new. A concluding sentence is still a concluding sentence)

When teaching a brand new topic, I like to demonstrate first, practice together as a class second, and then have students practice individually last (I do, We do, You do Method). Thusly, I choose three non fiction articles from my favorite non-fiction article website (NewsELA). With the first article, a fairly simple prompt, and the notes handout mentioned earlier, I write an example paragraph using the T.E.C.C. formula. I show this article after going over the notes handout to show examples of what each box's content should look like. Next, and with the second article, I write a paragraph with my class using the formula they have seen twice now (once in their notes and again in my example paragraph). And, with the third article, I have students practice the formula on their own.

Now, I don't usually teach writing in such a formulaic way, but because this is the first time most of my students have even heard the term "embedded quotes", let alone attempted to effectively use them, I have found that this is a great foundation or jumping off point. Middle school students crave that structure as a reassuring "pat on the back" that lets them know they are completing this new task correctly. I would love to hear your thoughts on this. Let me know if you've tried this method or something else!

See you next month,