Saturday, November 9, 2013

Narrative Mini Lessons and Padlet

My Students are wrapping up their study of Narrative and Style which includes Narrative technique. Typically I focus on developing effective hooks, including context and a thesis in their introduction, and narrative techniques including show don’t tell, dialogue, etc. 

One activity I do each year includes reading a distinguished narrative to identify effective narrative techniques and a scavenger hunt for hooks. 

In October, we held our first On-Demand Scrimmage with two narrative prompts from which to choose and write in a 40 minute period. I had the extreme joy of reading all 130 of them during Fall break and from that reading, was able to select one narrative that was distinguished in its use of narrative technique (show don’t tell, dialogue, effect hook and thesis, strong word choice, etc.)

Once we returned I put students in small groups of 3 to 4, with a copy of that narrative (with student permission and name deleted) and their task was as follows:

  • ·         Each member is to list one narrative technique that was done well with example.

  • ·         Together, justify the distinguished score using the writing scoring rubric.

They had to share the one technique they each listed on their own paper and then come to a consensus on which one they felt was the most effective and why.  They also had good conversation as to why the narrative was a distinguished, which opened their eyes to key words on the rubric that indicate narrative techniques one might use. 

The next step was to send one group member to one of the four computers I have in my room and to use to list their most effective technique and an example or explanation. 

The rest of the group was to go to their own narratives and begin to make notes on what they might add to jazz up their writing.
I felt that every student was very motivated and all students were busily listing what they might add with no exceptions. I think seeing that it could be done, having a mentor text at their level,  and actually experiencing how good narrative technique can be incorporated,  influenced their own insight that they could also do the same in their own writing.
Toward the end of class, I refreshed Padlet on my whiteboard and students could see all responses, which we shared out to the whole class- again making notes on their own narratives as to what they might add. 
A screen shot of one class' contributions

The great thing about Padlet was that I could print or save it as a PDF and actually have more samples of hooks  to use  for future instruction! Less work for me, since the students were the ones who did the discovering and the work in typing them.

Another activity we did was a scavenger hunt for good hooks/effective leads.  We had taken notes in our journals on the types of hooks/leads and looked at and labeled types of hooks I had previously gathered from NPR’s  This I Believe site of hundreds of essays. (I copy the entire introduction, because later we also label the context and thesis statements as well.) 
In our activity, Students had to look through young adult novels and children’s books (that I had and our librarian gathered on a cart for us) and had to list two hooks found and label each with the type of hook.
From there, students participated in a carousel activity where they each had to list one hook on large chart paper that had been labeled with the types- they had to find the appropriate labeled chart paper and write their hook down with the title of the book. (We had some good conversation on citations, use of quotation marks around exact words and how to punctuate a book title). 

Next step, you guessed it! After sharing out to the whole class, they had to  go to their own narrative and create two types of hooks for their own- each labeled with the type of hook. I was thrilled with some of their creations- Devon created this one:  “I couldn’t believe he had bit me. Again!” 

By reviewing the hooks, I was able to see who was getting it and who was not and put smileys by really effective hooks to help students decide on which one they would ultimately use.
I include this activity not just because it is a narrative activity, but because Padlet could have easily been used for this activity as well.
Incorporating technology and student discussion is easy when you have a well-developed plan and a tool like Padlet at your fingertips (for free!)