Thursday, April 24, 2014

Non-fiction Writing and Immersion

      The importance of non-fiction materials in the first grade classroom has outweighed fiction for many years.  It has taken me eons to gather non-fiction books and magazine for kids to get their hands on.  I believe that I now have more non-fiction materials than fiction in my own personal collection.  I do have to say that I have an addiction to children's books.  I can see the delight in my students eyes as they open a beautifully written book.  When that book happens to be a non-fiction one the excitement of seeing and learning new things brings the noise level up.  That bit of happiness is what keeps the smile on my face.  I have called my class "smarties" for a long time and write the statement: "Let's Get Smarter!" every day for a class goal.  Non-fiction books make my job easier.
Before the Common Core first graders wrote "reports".  They were very scripted.  I think I did a poor job of selling the importance of the task.  I just wanted to get it done because it was on the list.

I have a whole different view on first graders writing an informational piece.  Though I had all the right materials I wasn't using them to their full potential.  Last week I had the pleasure of attending a great writing workshop with the fabulous Leah Mermelstein.   I love Leah's writing workshop style.  The importance of mentor text is changing how I will teach this genre of writing.

We all know about immersing kids in the content of a topic so that they'll have something to write about.  Leah's focus with us was to focus the immersion on what makes good informational writing in the mentor text. An  aha moment for me.  Yes yes yes....get out those books and scan them for great openings, or topic sentences or the style authors use when writing informational text.  I am completely changed.

Here is Leah in our workshop in Burlington, VT last week.  We love it when she comes north to be with all of us.  Thanks Leah.  Great workshop.  Can't wait to dive into a better session with my kiddos and helping them to "get smarter."