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“We’re going to think of a character for the three of you,” I said, gathering three fifth-grade writers around me. “Real quick-- let’s come up with a name.”
“Kayla,” one of the girls said.
I wondered for a second if G. the only boy in the group would balk at the character being a girl, but he didn’t.
“Excellent,” I said. “Where does Kayla tend to hang out?”
Within a minute, the three students listed a few places where Kayla could spend time: the local amusement park, a playground, the beach, and a hiking trail all students could envision.
“And some troubles she could get into in those places?” I said.
I wrote and they started listing all sorts of stories that could involve Kayla. I had planned to offer them the idea of times when Kayla got bumps, bruises, or bled-- I call that the 3B strategy for thinking of a story--, but I didn’t need it. There were plenty of ideas.
“Decide on your top three,” I said, “but do it in your head. Just put your thumb up when you have them.”
And just like that, within five minutes, my striving fifth-grade writers who had been spending multiple days thinking of an idea and planning a story, had a character and a solid idea for a story.
“Now,” I said. “We’re going to share this story. One of you is writing the beginning, one of you the middle, and one of you the end. I pointed to each of the three students. Beginning, middle, end. Practice telling it. Go.”
After another five minutes, they’d done enough verbal rehearsal that they were ready to write. Before the end of the writing period, the three of them had a collaboratively written story, and they were so proud that they asked to write another one.
Was it perfect? No. But did they internalize the process that had eluded them for the last few weeks? Possibly. Time will tell, and I will continue to watch, but they were collaborative, independent, and engaged. #winfortheday