We’ve all had them. You know, the student that comes to you will a lot of writing talent? The author below is a prime example. But there is a misconception that advanced writers do not need a lot of instruction. This simply is not true. Whether struggling or not, every child needs to be taught skills to shape their writing. The author, below, had a lot of talent but her writing lacked the intentional application of the structure and skills that take a piece of writing from “creative with lots of potential” to polished. Let’s look at each part of the story to see what skills this fourth grade student has mastered.
#1: Entertaining beginnings: The writer has “hooked” the reader with an action/sound beginning. The setting has been referenced and the main character introduced. This beginning definitely leaves the reader wanting to hear more of the story.
#2: Elaborative detail: The young author has chosen critical parts of the story to elaborate on (which is a foundational EW lesson.) Notice the way she elaborates – white and red stitched ball standing still as a statue (critical object). Later in the piece, she describes…her brown streaked colored face and arms (a critical character).
#3: Suspense: Suspense has been used to draw the reader in by describing the ball being tackled in the mud. Following this event, the main character tries again which adds even greater depth to the storyline. The author also refers to the eyes of the crowd. The story questions captivate the reader, and, at the same time, move the story along.
#4: The main event: This writer has jumped inside his/her story and has invited the reader to come along. Notice that the main event is the largest portion of her story. She also reveals the main event, step-by-step, and uses great sentence variety. A balanced mix of action, description, dialogue, thoughts and feelings really breathes life into the story. Let’s look at some of her sentences:
#5: Conclusion: The author has concluded the story with a wish and then wraps it up nicely with a statement. “A smile was painted on my face.”
KAPOW! The ball flew through the air over the baseball field creating a whistle. It landed with a THUMP! I took one last glance at my friend before we sprinted off. The white and red stitched ball stood there a still as a statue. Chocolate mud and broccoli green grass surrounding it. Water flying through the air from the sprinkler as we tackled the ball. Lauren screamed, “It’s MINE!” that definitely go us a few stares. The eyes on us built up as Lauren rambunciously shoved me into a pile of gross brown mud. We giggled nonstop. “Nuhuh,” I said, inbetween laughs “it’s mine!!!” By now the entire crowd was staring. We are competitive, crazy, and the best of friends. I thought “You are not getting that ball.” She tackled me again and she snatched the ball from me. She laughed like a maniac and I was sort of surprised. We ran to give the now mud drenched ball to the team and sat on the bleachers. I held back a laugh, barely, and we were silent as if nothing happened. I decided to wash up. Walking in the bathroom, I looked in the mirror. Brown streaks colored my face and arms and I laughed at myself.
The foul ball ended up with the team, “correctly” I thought to myself. “Why did I let her grab the ball from my grip?!?!” A smile painted on my face.
Notice the high level of vocabulary as well as the application of skills. This student has most definitely been involved in powerful modeling where the teacher articulates the thought process of an author and shares this kind of high level vocabulary on a regular basis. The fact that all of the skills taught have been independently applied in a rough draft really speaks to the effectiveness of the approach.