This lesson is inspired by the best grammar book I have ever found: Image Grammar: Using Grammatical Structures to Teach Writing, by Harry R. Noden.
Mini lesson (takes about 10 mins with student discussion):
I tell the students, "Today we are going to talk about rhythm in writing. Putting rhythm into any genre of writing can be easy and will instantly bring your writing to the next level. Writing is a lot like music. Our writing can have a rhythm to it that helps the words flow and gets our idea across easily. Today we are going to play around with rhythm."
Then I give this example. We read it together and discuss what is different about the choppy version and the rhythmic version. Hearing the students put their observations into words is interesting...they can feel it, just like we feel the beat in a song. We have a chance to review verbs, adjectives and adverbs as well.
Then I give the following sentence frames and make-up spontaneous examples, using characters and situations from the students' stories...it lights them up when they hear their very own character or setting being used as the example. It also shows how easily this can be applied to their own writing and how quickly it makes their writing sound good.
The students get to choose one of these structures to use in their writing that day. It's up to them which one they use and where they put it, but they have to practice using rhythm somewhere in their writing during the workshop time.
Then the students choose their writing spots, and writing time begins.
We get to hear the high quality results immediately after, when the students share their stories. Listening for the variety of ways they incorporate the sentence frames is fun.
Here is an example from one writer:
"The dirty, not-so-white dog trotted down the dark lonely road, through the strawberry patch, and across the rickety bridge. She lifted her nose to catch the mouthwatering scent of a turkey just taken out of Mrs. Mabel's oven. Mrs. Mabel knew how to cook a good turkey, and Daisy was determined to taste as much as she could get her teeth around. Daisy was a dog who knew what she wanted, who never gave up, and who would do whatever it took to get the job done. And thus the thanksgiving disaster began."
I am loving meeting the new and returning writers this week. The writer's workshops are off to a great start. I watch the spark of creative excitement light up one-by-one in the children's eyes as we create characters together and feel new stories taking shape. Watching that spark spread around the circle like a little fireworks show, seeing their eyes begin to shine, and then hearing the kids say, "Can we go write now?!" with such eagerness is the reason I keep teaching these classes. It makes me smile even now. :)
What makes the magic possible is the safety and freedom I establish in the group. It is not possible to fail. Spelling and punctuation matter, but not in the first write. We will fix those things later. I don't want the kids to think that spelling is what writing is about! We are up to much bigger things, and while its true that they will become better spellers and punctuators, what matters to me is that they become detail-noticers, world-creators, imagination-followers, confident storytellers who are able to engage in the creative process and not get too worried when they get stuck or when things turn out differently than they had thought.
Writing is one way to make sense of ourselves and the world around us, and I am very happy to be engaged in the writing process with these amazing children.