Saturday, October 27, 2012

Conventions, Conventions, Conventions

I love Lucy Caulkins and wish that I could teach writing with an ounce of the passion that she does! That being said, if you are teaching with the passion of Lucy behind you, what are you using to supplement for her lack of focus on conventions?? 

At my school we celebrate the Writing Festival a month into the year. This is a time for students and teachers to celebrate writing and exhibit their writing skills. Students all through the building are working to publish their first writing piece and teachers are collaborating on ideas and scoring. 

I took a lot away from my student's pieces during this time. #1 we need a refresher on capitals and periods... PRONTO! #2 Most of us did not know what a paragraph was or how to begin one. 

Thank gooooodness for my amazing team! We put our heads together and came up with some pretty incredible stuff, if I do say so myself. Here is a list of the lessons we did this week. 

Monday: As a class we constructed a paragraph in our journals on a topic that we have all experienced. During this time we also talked about using notebook paper properly. Most didn't know what the margins even were. Together we indented our first paragraph, wrote our next lines next the margin and began two more paragraphs following the same format. This was SO simple and yet so eye opening for so many kids. They now know that we don't write past those red lines on our paper or way up at the top. The word indenting seemed foreign to them (I know it wasn't!). After constructing three short paragraphs in our journals we made this class chart to keep up all year!

We felt like it was so important for students to know and understand that what they are learning in writing they will use forever and always. It is not a skill that they are learning now and then get to suddenly stop. We will add to this chart all year!

Tuesday: I wrote several simple paragraphs. Each sentence was one line. I typed up the paragraphs without indenting, capitalizing or punctuating. I then printed the paragraphs and cut them into strips. A volunteer then laminated them and put each paragraph into a separate envelope. On Tuesday we analyzed one paragraph piece by piece. 

First, we read each line and put the paragraph in order. Next, we discussed how we should edit our paragraph. Together we physically indented our paragraph by scooting the top line over and making sure that every other paragraph lined up evenly. Finally we used vis a vis pens to add capitals and periods where they belonged. We did this together on the document camera. 

Here is a copy of the paragraphs for you to cut up and use. It is very plain jane but editing doesn't need to be fancy nancy! Just click the picture to get your copy. 

Wednesday: Now that we did the above activity together students did the same in partners. Now you see why there are multiple paragraphs. It doesn't matter if more than one group works on the same paragraph though. The key is that they are understanding editing, paragraphing, periods and capitals. 
Constructed paragraphs-- INDENTED!

Editing their paragraph...

Trying to determine the sequence.

Thursday: I completely forgot to take a picture, so sorry. I took a familiar story, "The True Story of the Three Little Pigs" and wrote it on chart paper with no indents, capital or periods. We read it together as a class and I did not tell them there was anything wrong. Because there was no punctuation we quickly ran out of breath and they realized what was going on! Together we indented, added capitals and periods where appropriate. We then went to work on our own writing! In conferencing every author was indenting!!!! Wooooo Hoooo!!!

Friday: This was my favorite lesson! The day before I had students tab their writing where they had left off. I made two copies of each of their writing. During writing on Friday they partnered up and read one another's writing. 

Instead of only reading their partner's they each worked together editing one partner's first. For example, both partners read their own copy of Partner A's writing. After editing, they discussed what they noticed. They both then read their own copies of Partner B's writing and discussed.

 This was so valuable. They really had to be thoughtful about each piece and compare it to the work they had done earlier in the week. After discussion, each partner filled out their own reflection. Of course I have attached it for you here! Enjoy!

I hope you have found a few conventions ideas that you will be able to use!!!


  1. Wow! I love your reflection paper...what a great way to get kids to think about their work and their writing.

    Craft of Teaching

    PS We are SO making a conventions pledge this week. :-)

  2. Nichole, I am so happy you found something you could use! Yay!