Mining For Gold- Looking For the Good Stuff In Writing

15 12 2013

I often have students Mining for Gold, or finding the Golden Lines in writing. I started the year off by exposing them to writing from all different genres and from professional writers to former students. I started by telling them that I was going to read a piece aloud, and they were to read along and then we were going to Mine for Gold, or find the golden lines.

Mining For Gold

a passage, phrase or sentence that :

Makes you wonder

Makes you laugh

Makes you sad or upset

Connects with your life

Is your favorite

Sounds poetic

This is a simple warm up activity that I do a few days a week. At first the students didn’t really know what to say, and just commented if there was a grammatical error or word they didn’t understand. I  would always share the first few times, pointing out lines that stood out to me, words that resonated, etc…. As time went on, the student’s responses became much deeper. They were looking at the writing as a writer.

After a few weeks of just commenting on the work, we then moved to “next steps” for the writer. We would give suggestions that the writer could do to improve their piece. Now that we have written various pieces, I ask some students if I can put their writing piece on the Elmo*** to share with the class. Eventually I hope to have my students bring in their own passages to use golden lines.

***I always put the writing piece on my Elmo (if you don’t have one of these – do everything you can to get one- it’s my BEST Friend in the classroom! http://www.elmousa.com/).





A Solution to Revising and Editing Work in Writer’s Workshop!!!

25 11 2013

During Writing Workshop I have been having my students working on writing their memoirs and working on a choice piece (a piece on any topic they choose). In my mini-lessons for the memoirs I have focused on writing effective leads,using senses in writing and revision vs editing.

The thing I love about my students is their hate relationship with proofreading, revising, editing, multiple drafts… anything that that has to do with re-reading and changing what they have written! In the past I have  found that when asked to proofread, my students have just read their partner’s paper and changed a few grammar/ spelling issues and said it was good.

I took an idea from a journal that I read about  revising work using the Focused Question Card Strategy.  It has really worked well for my students. We talked a lot about the difference between revision and editing in the writing process first.

I explained the entire process below(lengthly, I know- it was hard to sum up how it works!!)

I taught them the revision card strategy during their first quick publish piece of the year (click here to read about the quick publish piece). We went step by step through the process and we talked about good questions to ask on the card. After the students turned in their quick publish stories and revision cards (they always turn in all their drafts and revision and editing cards to me) I noticed that the students had asked good questions, but most of their answers were pretty pathetic! For example- does my ending make sense? Should I add more details. The answer: yes!- no other comments. So I need to work on how to answer the revision cards.. but we had a good start with the question part!

Here is the revision card process that I use during writing workshop:

  • After the students have written for at least  20 min.  for a few days and they have some content, I tell them  that they can conference with a peer if they want.
  • I let students pick their partners since they will find people they are comfortable with and someone who will give them suggestions and be honest. Remind students that they as the writer is asking for help, so they should accept comments relating to their card.
  • Students must conference with at least 2 students for revising conferences and one other student for editing conference.
  • When it is time for drafting. The writer needs to take a note card and write one questions or concern that they have that they would like help with. If it is a yes/no question, they need to ask why.
  • They write their name on the side of the card
  • When they conference- the writer reads his/her piece aloud without the partner looking at the paper.
  • The listener only responds to that one question that the writer had. The listener writes the answer on the back of the note card and puts his/her name.
  • No editing is done at this conference. This is only time for revising.

Students then write more.

Another Revision conference

  • Same as the first, students can pick anyone to work with but it must be with a different conference partner than the first.

Editing Conference

  • With peers. This time students sit side by side and are looking at one writer’s piece at a time. The writer reads the piece aloud. Make corrections and changes. The writer is the only one who writes on his/ her paper. Then they switch, writer becomes listener etc..

I, the teacher finally looks at the paper:

  • The paper has had 3 people look at it before I even see  it one time. I have glanced at their work, and helped here and there, but not in-depth.
  • The writer then writes on a note card one thing they want help with from me.  They attach the note card to their paper.
  • At this point, the writer is giving me his/her best draft possible.
  • I then looks at the piece, and responds to the student’s question and makes one suggestion.
  • The piece is then returned to the student for them to make corrections and changes and turn in for their final piece to be graded.
  • I needs to keep in mind that the writer can ignore the suggestions that the I suggested. I need to have the student go back to the rubric and focus on the things that they are being graded on.
  • I don’t correct grammar unless it is a habit and is seen consistently from the student. If it is a habit I only comment on one thing at a time- too many and they don’t internalize it.

**The article was from September 2006,  in the Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy,  written by Alexa Sandman.





Theme & Symbolism in one quick hit!

9 11 2009

Fly Away HomeI find that students constantly struggle with distinguishing the theme from the plot. I try to read a lot of picture books and have them tell me the theme after we have read it. I recently  read Fly Away Home by Eve Bunting to my students and I had them pick out the theme. It is a story about a dad and young boy who live in an airport because they are homeless. It is also a good segway into discussing the topic of homelessness and reasons people are homeless etc… We also talked about symbolism (the bird represents that there is hope and that the boy and dad have hope to someday get a home). This can be used as a warm up to spark student’s writing ideas in their writing notebooks.5 minute picture book= symbolism, theme and a discussion, or at least a thought in student’s s mind about a social issue- can’t go wrong!





Mining for Gold~Finding the Golden Lines

9 11 2009

IMG_0720

* I can’t figure  out how change the orientation of this picture I took of my Mining for gold poster- turn your head to check it out!! 🙂 )*

I often have students Mining for Gold, or finding the Golden Lines in writing. I started the year off by exposing them to writing from all different genres and from professional writers to former students. I started by telling them that I was going to read a piece aloud, and they were to read along and then we were going to Mine foe Gold, or find the golden lines.

Mining For Gold

a passage, phrase or sentence that :

Makes you wonder

Makes you laugh

Makes you sad or upset

Connects with your life

Is your favorite

Sounds poetic

This is a simple warm up activity that I do a few days a week. At first the students didn’t really know what to say, and just commented if there was a grammatical error or word they didn’t understand. I  would always share the first few times, pointing out lines that stood out to me, words that resonated, etc…. As time went on, the student’s responses became much deeper. They were looking at the writing as a writer.

After a few weeks of just commenting on the work, we then moved to “next steps” for the writer. We would give suggestions that the writer could do to improve their piece. Now that we have written various pieces, I ask some students if I can put their writing piece on the Elmo*** to share with the class. Eventually I hope to have my students bring in their own passages to use golden lines.

***I always put the writing piece on my Elmo (if you don’t have one of these – do everything you can to get one- it’s my BEST Friend in the classroom! http://www.elmousa.com/).





Election Day!

3 11 2009

Power of Democracy

My school district had a levy on the ballot today. We haven’t passed a levy since 2001- and we are in dire need of passing this one today!

As I was driving home, I couldn’t resist stopping and snapping this picture. Two next door neighbors both exercising their right to voice their opinion. 3 NO school Tax Levy signs, right next to Three Yes for School signs.

This is a great, real life example, of democracy!





Spark Student’s Creative Writing Thoughts

1 11 2009

Secret Knowledge of Gorwn upsI read The Secret Knowledge of Grown Ups by David Wisniewski to my students last week. Not only did they get a kick out of it, they also wrote some really creative stuff!  This is a unique picture book that takes many rules that adults tell children and then gives the reason that adults have for the rule. Sometimes the reasons behind the rules often don’t seem to make any sense. The books shows children the real reasons for adult rules. For example:  for the rule eat your vegetables, adults say that children to do this to be healthy. The real reason that the book reveals is that once giant vegetables ruled the world. We have to eat veggies so they never take over again.

I read a few rules and reasons to my students so they got the idea for the format of the book.  During warm up writing time I gave them other rules in the book and they came up with their own reasons. They did an awesome job! For example for the rule don’t jump on your bed, one of my student’s said that the reason adults tell kids this is because it will wake up the monsters under the bed.





A Solution to Revising and Editing Work in Writer’s Workshop!!!

28 10 2009

During Writing Workshop I have been having my students working on writing their memoirs and working on a choice piece (a piece on any topic they choose). In my mini-lessons for the memoirs I have focused on writing effective leads,using senses in writing and revision vs editing.

The thing I love about my students is their hate relationship with proofreading, revising, editing, multiple drafts… anything that that has to do with re-reading and changing what they have written! In the past I have  found that when asked to proofread, my students have just read their partner’s paper and changed a few grammar/ spelling issues and said it was good.

I took an idea from a journal that I read about  revising work using the Focused Question Card Strategy.  It has really worked well for my students. We talked a lot about the difference between revision and editing in the writing process first.

I explained the entire process below(lengthly, I know- it was hard to sum up how it works!!)

I taught them the revision card strategy during their first quick publish piece of the year (click here to read about the quick publish piece). We went step by step through the process and we talked about good questions to ask on the card. After the students turned in their quick publish stories and revision cards (they always turn in all their drafts and revision and editing cards to me) I noticed that the students had asked good questions, but most of their answers were pretty pathetic! For example- does my ending make sense? Should I add more details. The answer: yes!- no other comments. So I need to work on how to answer the revision cards.. but we had a good start with the question part!

Here is the revision card process that I use during writing workshop:

  • After the students have written for at least  20 min.  for a few days and they have some content, I tell them  that they can conference with a peer if they want.
  • I let students pick their partners since they will find people they are comfortable with and someone who will give them suggestions and be honest. Remind students that they as the writer is asking for help, so they should accept comments relating to their card.
  • Students must conference with at least 2 students for revising conferences and one other student for editing conference.
  • When it is time for drafting. The writer needs to take a note card and write one questions or concern that they have that they would like help with. If it is a yes/no question, they need to ask why.
  • They write their name on the side of the card
  • When they conference- the writer reads his/her piece aloud without the partner looking at the paper.
  • The listener only responds to that one question that the writer had. The listener writes the answer on the back of the note card and puts his/her name.
  • No editing is done at this conference. This is only time for revising.

Students then write more.

Another Revision conference

  • Same as the first, students can pick anyone to work with but it must be with a different conference partner than the first.

Editing Conference

  • With peers. This time students sit side by side and are looking at one writer’s piece at a time. The writer reads the piece aloud. Make corrections and changes. The writer is the only one who writes on his/ her paper. Then they switch, writer becomes listener etc..

I, the teacher finally looks at the paper:

  • The paper has had 3 people look at it before I even see  it one time. I have glanced at their work, and helped here and there, but not in-depth.
  • The writer then writes on a note card one thing they want help with from me.  They attach the note card to their paper.
  • At this point, the writer is giving me his/her best draft possible.
  • I then looks at the piece, and responds to the student’s question and makes one suggestion.
  • The piece is then returned to the student for them to make corrections and changes and turn in for their final piece to be graded.
  • I needs to keep in mind that the writer can ignore the suggestions that the I suggested. I need to have the student go back to the rubric and focus on the things that they are being graded on.
  • I don’t correct grammar unless it is a habit and is seen consistently from the student. If it is a habit I only comment on one thing at a time- too many and they don’t internalize it.

**The article was from September 2006,  in the Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy,  written by Alexa Sandman.








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