Sunday, January 15, 2012


Pens are busy.  A productive buzz is in the air.  Off-task behaviors are practically nil.  All is well with the world.  I love days like this in Writer's Workshop.  (Does anyone else feel like Writer's Workshop sets the temperature for the rest of the day?)  Anyway, why today of all days?  Read on to find out.  

We've been revising old pieces for a few weeks now.  Look here to read an earlier post about our revisions.  On this particular day, as Lucy Calkins suggested, we tried something new.  The premise is that a writer can revise a piece by transforming it into something altogether different.  During my mini-lesson, I quickly modeled how I could turn my small moment into a letter, poem, newspaper article, and How-to.  Even though the lesson is simply introductory and not meant to produce mastery, it's amazing to see what they produce with such little background knowledge.  When I first saw this lesson several years ago, I thought, "Really?  First graders can do this?"  

As Donald Graves says, "As every study we've conducted over the last ten years has shown, we've underestimated what children can do."

Sure thing. First graders can do this and do it remarkably well. Check it out.

 Dakota's piece about her bunny turned into a helpful How-To.
(Translation:  How to Clean Bunny Poop - Get a shovel.  Get ready to scoop.  Scoop the poop.)

Luke had written about dumpster diving and revised this small moment into a How-To.  (I'd love to hear the story behind the story.)
 (Translation:  How to Dumpster Dive - First you get something to get on.  Second get up in the thing you're getting in.  Third, sink in.)

Andee revised a small moment about her dog into a letter, poem, and newspaper article.  
 (Letter Translation: Dear dog, Come back.  I miss you.  Please, please come back.  I really miss you.  Love, Andee)
(Poem Translation:  My dog, my dog ran away, it came back with food yay.)
 (Newspaper Article Translation: At 5:00 my dog ran away and then it came back with puppies and food.)

Garrett revised his piece about golfing into a poem, How-to, and newspaper article.
(Poem Translation:  Golf balls, golf balls, thick and round.  Golf balls, golf balls, why are you so hard to hit?  If a pro golfer comes to you will you be scared?  Golf balls, golf balls.)
 (How-To Translation:  How to Hit a Golf Ball - First, you grab the club.  You get ready to hit.  You make the ball go flying.)
 (Newspaper Translation:  One day I went out to hit some balls, but when I hit one I think I hit it a little too hard.  If anyone sees that ball ever again, give it to me.)

Katie revised a shark story into a How-To.  (Mind you, girl sharks and boy sharks are not drawn the same.)
(Translation:  How to Write a Shark - First write half of the shark.  Second, add the eyes.  If it's a girl, put it with eyelashes. Third, add the mouth and the nose and the gills.)

Jackson H. had written about going to the pumpkin patch and revised it into a poem.  (I think I've got a poet on my hands.)
(Translation:  Pumpkin, pumpkin seed.  Deep, deep, deep in the ground shaped like a football.)

"Data show that most children entering first grade (about ninety percent) believe they can write."  - Donald Graves

I'm so glad my kids still think that.
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  1. Oh my Tammy! You do an awesome job with these little writers! I totally agree with Donald Graves that we DO underestimate what children are capable of doing!

  2. Thanks Lori! Year after year I'm continually reminded to raise my expectations of what they can do.

  3. I loved doing writer's workshop. I allowed the kids to write, illustrate, and publish their own stories. I had tons of things in the writer's workshop area to allow the kiddos to really get creative...and that is exactly what they did. another thing I did that was a huge hit was to create a ring of students addresses and allow the students to write and mail each other letters. I will have to post a picture of the rings I created. There is really nothing better than a classroom full of motivated students...those are def. the days that make teaching fun!

  4. Loved your post! Most of all, I love the inventive spelling these kiddos have. Shuvl is so perfect! Keep up the great work! I love the idea of writing more than a narrative.

    Let's Teach Something


  5. Thanks Staci. One of my favorite writing units is poetry. It's kind of nice to move away from narratives sometimes.

  6. I really try to do writers workshop in my room but I've always felt like its an area I'm really lacking. My class is about 75% ELL students so just getting them to identify letters and sounds is a task in itself.

    Thanks for sharing inspired me to get the ball rolling in my class :)
    Color Me Kinder

  7. Great job Tammy! You raised the bar and your students met the challenge! I love WW and this is an example that every teacher should see!

  8. Edana, writers workshop can be so tough even with all English speaking kids, so I can understand what you're saying. It can often be my least favorite and most favorite part of the day all in one fell swoop. It's such a great way for kids to learn how to be better readers and writers though, that it's worth the agony. :) If you haven't seen Lucy Calkins' Units of Study, you should take a look. Good luck!

  9. Thank you Sandra! I appreciate your supportive words.

  10. This post (as many of yours) has inspired me. I have been caught in the basal series trap a bit too much I think. I think I will revisit my books on Writer's Workshop and find my books by Calkins....thank you!


  11. Kelli, I'm very humbled. Thank you for such a compliment. I needed that. I truly believe you'll be glad to find your way back to Writer's Workshop. I hope it feels like home again.