A few weeks ago I posted about the writing trait of ideas. This week, I will focus on the writing trait of organization. I love to teach about organization this time of the year. My students have been writing for six months (at different stages and levels of course), and many are ready to work on organizing their writing. Here are are some lesson ideas that can help get your students writing more organized!
I work with my kindergartners on these four areas of the organization trait:
1. Writing Catchy Leads
2. Beginning, Middle and End - Teaching Sequence
3. Ending Stories
4. Connecting Titles to the Story
Our organization work also includes discussing organizational space on the page and staying focused on a topic. Here are some lessons that I work on with my students to get them to this level.
1. Writing Catchy Leads:
These are just a few of my students’ catchy leads for their stories. Many teachers don’t realize that kids at this age are capable of coming up with some amazing leads for their writing.
Writing Leads PowerPoint
I love this Power Point by Renee Burress, (Download Wriingleads-1). It gives students a few ways to start their stories and includes some authentic examples from picture books.
Catch your audience’s attention with Three Cheers for Tacky written by Helen Lester
This is a cute story that your children will love. It is about a little penguin named Tacky that is odd compared to his companions. He always messes everything up. In this story they are entering a cheering contest where the judges are bored by the other penguin cheering groups. When Tacky’s group goes up and Tacky starts messing up, it catches the judges and audiences attention.
Connecting with the Audience
My students have been able to connect this story with what an audience is in their writing. I talk to them about how I as a teacher have to read stories written by our 21 classmates. If they all sound the same I will get bored and want to fall asleep. The students love how I act out reading some fake but typical bed to bed type kindergarten stories. This is when we start talking about catching my attention and making me want to read their story.
This activity leads into me sharing about myself as a reader. If I pick up a book and start reading and it doesn’t catch my attention, I will probably stop reading it. Readers are allowed to stop reading a book if they are not interested in it unless it is an assignment they have to read. We talk about how we want people to read our whole story so we have to make sure they do not want to put the book down.
I love to use the idea of a sandwich similar to the hamburger poster many upper grade teachers have. The lead is like the top of the sandwich. If the bread is all moldy (bring in moldy bread for a good visual) do you want to eat it?
Sentence Strip Leads
Students love being able to write on sentence strips. This activity is asking the students to decide on a topic they want to write about and writing their lead on a sentence strip. As a class we help each other come up with ideas and brainstorm different ways to start their story to catch their audiences’ attention. We always use mentor texts to see how our favorite authors catch our attention. Students start to use onomatopoeia, questions, and set up leads to start their writing. You will be surprised how quickly these young kids catch onto writing catchy leads. It is so exciting!
2. Beginning, Middle & End - Teaching Sequence:
Story sequence is a pre-k and kindergarten skill that we work on in both reading and writing. Here are a few other activities you can do to encourage your students transitioning the sequencing into the writing.
Catch your students’ attention by telling a familiar story such as Cinderella and leaving out the middle or the end. Put on your acting hat and over emphasize how great of a story it is. You will find some students making faces and disagreeing with you. Take a few minutes and talk about what was wrong with your story and connect it to what you are seeing with students’ stories.
Story Scramble with Arthur is a fun game where students work on putting the story back together.
The simple worksheets that most of us have where students sequence the story or activity and glue them into the correct boxes can be taken a step further. Instead have them glue each picture into a paper teacher made book in the correct order. Now have them go back and write the words to go along with the pictures on the pages to create an organized simple story. This kind of practice helps students to understand that their writing needs to make sense.
Photo Story or Movies
My students right now are working on creating a simple movie using Windows Movie Maker. In groups students have decided on a simple story such as getting hurt and going to the nurse’s office. They are in the process of deciding on what pictures they need to take to tell their story. After storyboarding (sequencing and planning their pictures out) they will be taking the pictures and then organizing them into Movie Maker. Students will then add the writing to tell their story in sequence with their pictures. Creating a simple movie like this has students work on sequencing in a purposeful and meaningful way. By creating this story they really get a sense of stories needing a beginning, middle, and an end. Once my students have finished these I will be posting them for you to see.
Labeled Book Pages
This year I decided to try out making my blank books for my students and labeling the pages with lead, beginning, middle, end, and ending. My students are just finishing their first books with the pages labeled this way and they are coming out great!
Before giving them these new books we worked on a planning sheet where the students had to draw a picture of what happens in the beginning, middle, and end of their stories. After sharing these and telling their stories, I gave the students the new books with labeled pages. I am finding that they are dong much better with having a good sequence for their writing by using labeled pages. I am excited to see them continuing to use these and to get their feedback on if it helps them or not. So far the students have been telling me that it helps them to remember the middle and end of their stories.
(Of course with a variety of developmental levels in our classrooms some students just are not ready for this high level as writers and that is okay.)
3. Ending Stories:
Going back to my sandwich analogy, if you do not have a bottom piece of bread, what will happen to your sandwich? It will fall apart when you pick it up to eat it. This is the same with your writing. If you do not write an ending sentence, your story could fall apart. Kids at this age typically want to write “The End” or “Good Bye” as they see in some cartoons. I try to get them to take it to the next level by asking a question at the end or restating something similar to their lead. Just making students aware by sharing mentor texts and letting them experiment with ending their writing is great at this age.
4. Connecting Titles to the Story:
When we learn about titles, we connect them to our reading. Before starting stories we usually predict what the story will be about by reading the title. Reminding students that readers do this helps them think about their titles as writers.
Typically when students start their writing they begin by writing their titles. Most authors wait until they have finished writing to come up with a fitting title. I have found that asking students to wait to title their books helps them to think of a more fitting and interesting title.
"The 2nd Best Player Named Christeon Ronaldo"
Additional 6-Traits Resources:
Hopefully you will find some of these activities helpful for your students. It is always important to remember that students are all at different readiness and developmental levels so you will need to differentiate these skills to match your students’ needs. If you have any other ideas for teaching the organization trait, please comment back and share them with us.