Julie Patterson

Notebook strategies to help generate and revise poems

Many teachers launch poetry units in April to honor National Poetry Month, so here are five notebook strategies that can support your poetry unit. As you read through them, you’ll find that these also fit or could be adapted to other units of study.

In fact, it’s not a bad idea to teach the same notebook strategy in multiple units of study—that demonstrates how valuable the strategy is in the “real world,” perhaps working across genres, subject matter, audiences, purposes, etc.

Keep in mind that writing is not a linear process, so activities like brainstorming, list-making and writing “discovery drafts” (Lucy Calkins’ term) can be useful in collecting ideas, nurturing them and revising them, too. When applicable, I’ve given ideas for how each strategy can help in different stages of the writing cycle.

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Endings: What Can You Teach?

As promised, this post continues our conversation on beginning, middle and end in story writing.

I should be candid. I’m struggling with what to say in this post, because the logical me wants to simply go back to those three stories that we looked at earlier and analyze the endings–just as we did the beginnings. That would give us a few strategies that we could teach in the classroom.

We might notice, for example, that a lot of stories–including “Eleven” and “The Marble Champ”– have what is often referred to as a “circle structure.” The end echoes a theme(s), image(s) and/or phrase(s)/line(s) from the beginning. The author takes us “full circle,” so to speak, reminding readers how the story began, though we return this time with more knowledge, now understanding why the specific theme/image/phrase is so important.

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Hold Readers at a Climax

As promised, this week I’m diving deeper into the subject of a story’s climax for the Indiana Partnership for Young Writers:

When I first read stories with students and ask them to identify the climax, they tend to point to a small amount of text, often two sentences or less. This is one of a handful of common phenomena that still baffles me — where did so many of us get the idea that climaxes are small?

More accurately, the climax is often the most important part of the story, and, consequently, it gets the most space.

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Beginnings: 3 Examples (and Why They Work)

After my post about “Beginnings, Middles and Ends” a few weeks ago, a teacher-friend reached out to me.

“When I tell students I want them to work on ‘the beginning,’ I don’t mean all that rising action you mentioned,” she said. “I am talking about much simpler stuff. I just want them to write an opening that draws readers in. I am talking about a hook.”

I wouldn’t call crafting a compelling opening simple, by any means, but I appreciate her point. Maybe you, too, want to focus on teaching students to write great opening lines. So how do we do that?

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Written for Indiana Partnership for Young Writers

The Trouble with Beginning, Middle and End

I recently helped judge a story writing contest, and one of the criteria on the assessment form I was provided was: Does the story have a beginning, middle and end? As I began reading the entries, I quickly discovered that this was not useful assessment criteria.

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Written for the Indiana Partnership for Young Writers

4 Craft Strategies to Notice in THE LEAVING MORNING (and Why)

Excerpt from original post published at http://www.partnershipforinquirylearning.org:

Writing workshop teachers use exemplary texts (“touchstone texts”) in the curriculum. We read these texts over and over with students, invite students to share what they notice about the craft of these texts, point out new craft strategies that students are ready to comprehend, and invite students to try using these or similar strategies in their own writing.

The best touchstone texts are sophisticated enough to work across multiple grade and comprehension levels. One of the first—and still one of the most frequent—touchstone texts that I used was The Leaving Morning by Angela Johnson. Here are just a few of the brilliant craft strategies my students and I have discovered in it:

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How to Read a Poem

Readers and writers have strong – and disparate – opinions about the “right” way to read a poem. Worse yet, there’s wide disagreement among accomplished and highly educated poets, too. There’s really only one point we all agree on – poems are meant to be read aloud. Beyond that, it gets dicey, but here are some things to consider.

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Written for Indiana Partnership for Young Writers

Display and honor writers’ thinking (not just final products)

I am a sucker for art and teacher supply stores. Since I’ve typically been a visiting writer or the teacher-onwheels who rotates between classrooms, I’ve rarely had the opportunity to create a bulletin board. But boy can I imagine what my students and I would build together if I had the space!

For starters, I’d always have one board that mimics a strategy I use in my writer’s notebook. I’d teach the strategy and invite students to try it—not only to try it in their notebooks but to post their ideas on the bulletin board as well. I’d choose a strategy that will serve students across genres so we can continue to fill the board for months at a time, just as I want them to re-use “old” strategies in their notebooks throughout the year, storing up ideas and inspiration for writing projects they haven’t even thought of (or I haven’t assigned) yet. After all, that’s exactly what I do in my writer’s notebook. Here are two ideas:

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Written for Indiana Partnership for Young Writers

Now that’s a Story: Learn from a 1st Grade Writer

The story below is one of my favorites from our 2011 anthology, probably because I envy the author a bit. Click the video below to follow along as Cody reads it, then I’ll tell you why I’m jealous.

Get the video and read more here.
Written for Indiana Partnership for Young Writers

Feed your writers’ notebooks this summer

Summer is a great time for teachers to “stock up” their writers’ notebooks. Not sure what to write? Here are three strategies to help get you thinking.

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