It's mid-March, and our Women's History Month celebrations are in full swing. "March Book Picks!" had us researching big names in history as well as reading books by spectacular authors. This week we'll give students the opportunity to honor the incredible women in their own lives.
Whether they've been inspired by their mothers, aunts, grandmothers, or teachers, this is the time for your students to share the stories of the great women in their lives. In this project, we'll create questions for our interviews and ask these special ladies to give us advice based on their personal experiences.
Click on my downloadable templates to get your budding journalists started on an important interview.
Scholastic Printables offers many different resources for report writing. I took the "My Report on a Great Woman!" printable and changed the format and content slightly, in order to meet the needs of the students I planned to work with. Don't be afraid to change what's out there to work for you! Simply adjusting the layout of the page from portrait to landscape will give younger writers more room to stretch out their sentences across the page. I used the landscape report template for my younger writers and the portrait report template for older writers. Download the format that will work best for your students.
Now that you know what the final product will look like, it's time to come up with questions for your students to ask their interviewees! The landscape interview questions template and the portrait interview questions template will give students the opportunity to create their own questions, rather than just using a list of questions made up by someone else. Inspiring students to be thoughtful about their questions will really get them to think about their goals for the final project. It also gives them real ownership of their work.
Work in small groups to help young writers come up with great questions for their interviews.
I showed this group of 2nd graders what the final product of our interview needed to look like and gave them the landscape version of the interview question template. We worked from the final product to think about the questions we would need to ask our interviewees.
Talk to your students about creating more open-ended questions rather than questions that can be answered with a "yes" or "no" response. In addition, making a list of question words may be helpful, too!
Once you've modeled the kinds of questions you want students to create, send them off to independent writing to create additional questions for their interviews.
Writers who need less scaffolding can be supported through a whole class discussion.
I sat with a group of 4th graders to model the ways in which writers come up with questions for their interviews. They continued to work independently to come up with questions and later shared their ideas with the group.
Using the Promethean ActivSlate, I jotted down their thoughts and displayed their ideas on the board. Surprisingly, they were much more hesitant to share their thinking about what makes a good question than my group of 2nd graders. Older students sometimes worry that they will give the wrong answer or "make a mistake.”
Once I earned their trust and assured them that their ideas would be listened to and respected, the ideas starting pouring in.
Photo below: These older writers used the portrait version of the question template, which matched the format of their final product.
Now that the bulk of the work is done, send your students home to conduct their interviews. With questions in hand, your journalists will be well prepared and ready to go!
Once your students return to class with the answers to their questions, they will be at the last phase of the project. Although they are just about ready to publish, they may need a little help with editing and revising their work.
Since most of our students are used to writing from their own experiences, they may need help writing in the third-person. Spend a little time setting up conferences with students who may need help with this. Conferences can be done in small groups or one-on-one. Having students work in partnerships to edit their writing can work well, too.
Photo: I sat down with Erica to guide her as she edited her writing. (We found the time to work on this during Pajama Day, so please excuse our crazy outfits!)
We have a large ELL population in my school, and teachers have to differentiate instruction to meet their needs. Although this writing assignment may be more difficult for students who are learning to speak, read, and write in English, it is important to include them in your planning. Perhaps giving them the option to use a template with a larger picture box and fewer lines for writing will make the process more manageable for them. Do you have English language learners in your classroom? Print this ELL template to get them started.
Providing written feedback as well as talking with students about revisions will help ELL students know and understand what they need to do as writers. They will feel empowered, smart, and just as capable as the rest of the students. Here is an example of how the template can be used, featuring Ashfakul's thoughtful work with some written feedback from me:
Unlike large writing units, this project will not have you spending huge amounts of time editing and revising. You'll just need to polish up the published pieces with some light editing and a splash of color.
The stories that these women have to tell are worth listening to. Give students time to present their work to their classmates. Discovering common themes in their writing will make them feel connected to each other in new ways.
I read through each one of these reports and felt a great deal of admiration for these women. They faced similar challenges and celebrated a variety of accomplishments. Most of them arrived as immigrants to the United States and overcame many hardships. Although their birthplaces may be different, many of them struggled with learning a new language, being separated from their families, and working hard to support their children here in the United States. Regardless of the country they came from, they have so much in common.
Once your students have shared their work with their peers, proudly display their reports for all to see. Visitors will have the opportunity to learn a little something from your fantastic role models.
We started off this month by celebrating famous women in history. Now we're focusing on the incredible women in our own lives. I hope these downloadable templates and examples of student work will guide you as you continue to take part in activities to celebrate Women's History Month.
Are you involved with other great projects that highlight women who are positive role models? Please share your ideas here! I'd love to know what is going on in your classroom this month.