It's inevitable. After a holiday, everyone talks about it. The holiday!
I had already heard a lot of holiday stories from my Grade 1 students, so when Grade 4 came, I didn't want them to tell me all about their holiday as well. Instead, I asked them to write about it. I was expecting a bunch of stories starting with, or ending in, "I had an amazing/great/fantastic/ awesome vacation.", and then a bunch of details, maybe some dialogue, some "show, not tell"... Travels, shopping, restaurants. Beaches. Maybe some feelings.
Instead, I got this.
From a girl who is just learning English.
And it went straight to my heart!
I had the worst holiday that I never, ever had.
I was seating on my chair, reading a book,
my body almost iron.
I was looking at my brother playing a game.
The name of the game - 'Rainbow Six Maruchiplay Kajuaru",
my body almost a mummy.
I ate many fruits.
Their names were apple and orange,
my body almost fruit juice.
I made many, many cakes.
Cheese cake, chocolate cake, strawberry cake, orange cake, and blueberry cake,
my body almost cake.
I sent the cakes to my Japanese friends.
They said their "Thank you!"s every time.
When I wanted to say "You're welcome!",
the words that I said were "Thank you!" too,
my brain almost nothing but "Thank you!"
I went to ballet.
It's sometimes like gymnastics.
After gymnastics, we danced our dance for the May show.
My body was so hard!
My feet reached up to my head.
We went to my mom's friend's house.
He owns a jewellery shop.
He had many, many stones and many, many pearls.
He showed us the blood stone.
The most expensive one.
I like to read a book, but I don't like to read all day.
I don't like to watch someone play games. I like to play them.
I like fruit, but not when it's too much.
I don't want to make cakes anymore.
Why does everyone just say "Thank you!", "Thank you!"?
I don't like stones and I don't want to see the blood stone.
This week was so long.
It's the worst holiday that I never, ever had.
Introduction to Narratives
I started the Grade 1 ESL unit on narratives with a visible thinking routine. At present, I am enrolled in the Visible Thinking course from Harvard's Project Zero, and I felt inspired. I wanted to bring the culture of thinking more visibly into my writing lessons, therefore I thought I would use the thinking routine See/Think/Wonder, as it is straightforward enough for my Grade 1 ELLs.
I chose a picture from the PM Readers book The Three Little Pigs, retold by Annette Smith to trigger observations and to help my little learners to generate thinking.
The next step was to choose the picture which was going to serve as an artefact for our thinking routine. I thought this was a good choice because it lends itself to extensive vocabulary exploration, and it can also trigger some good observations and wonderings. It also doesn't give away too much of the story.
See/Think/Wonder was a success with my little learners. Their response was enthusiastic and the depth of their thinking and questioning increased as the activity progressed. I scribed, and the fact that I added their names after each "I think..." statement or "I wonder..." question made them try harder and think deeper, in order to share more with their classmates. They made connections and shared many relevant comments as we were progressing through the activity, and their level of interest increased considerably as the activity unfolded. I was most pleased to see that all the students were very engaged and used English successfully to participate and to share their thinking.
We read the story of The Three Little Pigs and The Gingerbread Man together and we looked at the elements of a narrative more in depth. We realised that each story has different characters, settings, problems and resolutions. We also learned that stories begin with Once upon a time... We wrote our own version of The Three Little Pigs during a session of shared writing.
The excitement grew when it was time for each student to start writing their own narratives. I used The Storyteller's Writing Box from Lakeshore and each student got to choose 3 characters that were going to appear in their narratives. I did this to ensure that they were not going to re-write or copy a story or a fairytale that they already know, but to help them create original narratives. The Storyteller's Box is a a resource that I used many times and I highly recommend it for various learning situations, with different age levels.
Planning, Drafting and Editing
I used the first graphic organiser to allow students to plan their narratives using pictures, and the second one for them to write the first draft of their stories. We edited them together for punctuation.
The process finished with the publication of our very first narratives in English!
Overview of the Writing Process with Student Examples
Very proud of my young authors!
English is not my students' first language, but poetry has a language of its own. Grade 4 English language learners already know how to use language beautifully, as their chinquains clearly show.
Very proud of my kiddos!
* A cinquain poem is a pattern poem that looks like this:
And here is the publishing template that I used:
In Grade 4, we wrote poems using metaphors and similes. What's great is that poetry lends itself to any language level while keeping its beauty and richness of meaning untouched.
Below are some examples of poems that the English language learners came up with.
Poetry with similes. A simile is a figure of speech where 1 thing is compared to another using as... or like....
Poetry with metaphors. A metaphor is a figure of speech where one thing is said to be another.
As part of the Poetry unit in Grade 4 Writers' Workshop, we have been looking at different ways to generate poetry. One was to use visible thinking routines as 'recipes for poetry'. I chose a routine called Looking 10x2, which we used with 2 paintings of Van Gogh, The Church at Auvers and Cafe Terrace at Night.
Students are already familiar with Van Gogh's work from a previous unit on Visual Arts and therefore found it very easy to engage with 2 new paintings.
The Looking 10 x 2 routine looked like this for us .
A most interesting and valuable moment happened towards the end of our shared writing, when students had to come up with questions to close up the poem. Questions varied greatly, and each question lent a completely different feeling and message to the poem. We had chosen to write about The Church at Auvers. The questions students came up with stretched from "Is there any hope left?" to "May we enter?" to "When will we see the darn sun again?" to "Is this my home?" to "I wonder where God is?", etc. We couldn't settle for one.
What I really appreciated was the fact that each students' individual personality and voice transcended the writing. They made personal connections, they enlarged minimalistic details and gave them maximal meanings, and overall they submerged themselves in poetry and painting with enthusiasm. Using this routine, the students were able to create meaningful poetry, while thinking deeply about a work of art. They were able to look at a painting and see it from a poet's point of view. This was an entirely new experience for them and it allowed them to find deeper meaning in the art they were analysing, while at the same time engaging in an act of creation themselves, of an entirely different nature, using their words and ideas, instead of brushes, paint and colours. Enjoy some of their writing below!