Subject: Writing
Topics: Personal narratives, story beginnings, reflecting on Hidden Villa experiences
Duration: 1-3 Weeks
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Summary

Before Your Trip
  • Introduce your students to the unit by reading them a personal narrative.
  • Let your students know that they will be writing personal narratives based on their Hidden Villa experience. 

After Your Trip

  • Choose lessons from Parts I-III  

California State
Content Standards

Grades 2-5
Writing 1.0, 2.0

This unit touches on the same standards for 2nd through 5th grades, though as students progress through the grades their understanding deepens and becomes more sophisticated. This unit offers ideas that can be taken to differing levels of complexity and can be easily adapted for any of these grades. Writing 1.0 (writing strategies including complete sentences, paragraphs, quotations, revision and editing) Writing 2.0 (narratives, sensory details)

personal_narratives 

 

Writing personal narratives requires students to remember and reflect on their Hidden Villa experiences. This reinforces their memory, not so much of the information they learned, but of their own personal growth - as learners, explorers and caretakers in the natural world. This particular personal narrative unit validates experiential learning by asking students to reflect on how their Hidden Villa field trip has changed them. Examples from my students range from understanding how much work goes into milking a cow to realizing how successfully overcoming challenges at Hidden Villa has inspired them to participate more in class.

I have learned that the most difficult step in writing personal narratives is selecting a significant memory. Before our field trip to Hidden Villa, my students found this writing style to be very challenging because they were not able to choose experiences that lend themselves to the style.

It was entirely different teaching experience when we studied personal narrative after our field trip to Hidden Villa. All of my students were excited to share with others their fun, interesting, and meaningful experiences at Hidden Villa. Also, because I had participated in the field trip with my students I was much better able to guide my students in choosing their topics and developing their ideas. After achieving success, it was easier for my students to write personal narratives of other experiences.

Part I: Getting Started

The first several lessons are dedicated to helping students select their topic, prepare a writing plan and create an interesting beginning. In all of these lessons, students will receive the instructional support they need by intensive modeling. It may be helpful to think of an interesting memory of your own - either from the field trip or from some other activity - that you can use to model the writing process to your students.

Lesson 1: Reading a personal narrative and reflecting on Hidden Villa experiences

Lesson 2: Creating a web to diagram the beginning, middle and end of student narratives

Lesson 3: Developing the beginning of personal narratives

Lesson 4: Students choose their narrative beginning


Part II: The Rough Draft

Writing the rough draft can take between a day to over a week, depending on your student's writing level, the length of the story they have to tell and their individual work pace. There are many different writing mini-lessons that you could teach before each writing period. Included here are the mini-lessons of two topics that consistently challenge my students during this writing project. For more writers' workshop mini-lesson ideas I recommend you go directly to the masters and read one of Lucy Calkin's many acclaimed books, Wondrous Words by Katie Wood Ray or books by Ralph Fletcher.

Lesson 1: Finding and expanding summarized actions

Lesson 2: Reflecting on Hidden Villa experiences


Part III: Revise, Edit and Publish

When students begin finishing up their rough draft, review with your class how to conduct a student revision conference. Each teacher has his or her own way to go about this task. However, when reviewing your students' rough drafts, I recommend using a checklist specific to each writing genre. Being a revision advisor is challenging. I believe strongly in holding students accountable for doing a good job. I particularly want students to demonstrate the ability to revise and refine the specific elements we focused on in my mini-lessons.

 

 



Lesson Plan go_top



Part I: Getting Started


Lesson 1: Reading a personal narrative and reflecting on Hidden Villa experiences

Lesson 1: Reading a personal narrative and reflecting on Hidden Villa experiences

Duration  

40 minutes

Objectives

  • Students will reflect on their experiences in nature and listen to a personal narrative example.

Materials

  • I'm In Charge of Celebration by Byrd Baylor
  •  

 

Discussion: Read aloud the book I'm in Charge of Celebration by Byrd Baylor. This a beautiful book that gives a wonderful example of writing personal narrative entries about important experiences in nature. Class discussion. Which celebration did you enjoy most? How did the girl say her experience changed her? Guide discussion about how our experiences have the power to change us - the way we think, feel or act.

Model: Think aloud as you make a list of Hidden Villa experiences that were fun, important or meaningful. Students Think-Pair-Share about their own experiences.

Individual: In notebooks, students start a list of possible narrative topics. If there is time, next to each topic they should jot down why this belongs on their list of special experiences.

Support: Students share their lists of possible narrative topics in small groups to help each other choose the one Hidden Villa experience that they think will make the best story.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Lesson 2: Creating a web to diagram the beginning, middle and end of student narratives

Lesson 2: Creating a web to diagram the beginning, middle and end of student narratives

Duration  

40-60 minutes

Objectives

  • Students create a three-stage web of their Hidden Villa memories

Materials

  • Paper or photocopied workpage
  • Writing Utensils
  •  

 

Discussion: Explain that in a personal narrative, the beginning usually "sets-the stage" and shows what happened leading up to the special experience. The middle usually relates the most exciting, interesting or important action of the memory. The end generally shows how the experience ended, and includes how you felt or were changed by the experience.

Model: Show how you decided on the three stages for your own chosen memory and create a free-form web of all the details you can remember of each stage.

Support: Allow students 5-10 minutes to talk in pairs about their chosen memories.

Individual: Students work on their own webs. You may want to offer them a photocopied work page to help them organize their ideas. This step may take more than one writing period.

persnweb



 

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Lesson 3: Developing the beginning of personal narratives

Lesson 3: Developing the beginning of personal narratives

Duration  

40 minutes

Objectives

  • Students write three ways to begin their narrative

Materials

 

Discussion: The beginning of a story needs to hook the readers and lure them to continue reading.

Model: Share four different possible beginnings to your own story. The first one should be as boring as possible. Elicit student response. Then share one of each type of interesting beginnings:

  1. Description
  2. Dialog
  3. Action

Discuss each beginning and make a class chart with explanations and examples.

Support: In pairs students read a list of exemplary story beginnings (see materials) and decide together in which category each belongs. Share favorites as a class.

Individual: In their writer's notebooks students write at least three different ways to start their own story - one of each type.

 

 

 


 

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Lesson 4: Students choose their narrative beginning

Lesson 4: Students choose their narrative beginnings

Duration  

20-60 minutes

Objectives

  • Students work together to choose their best narrative beginnings

Materials

  • Teacher example of personal narrative on overhead transparency
  • Writing Journals

Before class, write the first paragraph of your personal narrative on an overhead.

Model: Re-read all of the possible beginnings to your personal narrative. Share your thinking about how you chose which beginning to use. With class, read through the entire first paragraph of your narrative. Help students notice how you incorporated the different ideas from your web (from Lesson 2) into your paragraph.

Support: In pairs, students share their possible narrative beginnings to help each other choose which one to use and decide how to proceed.

Individual: In their notebooks on a new page, students copy down the one good beginning they chose and then continue with the rough draft of their story.





 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Part II: The Rough Draft


Lesson 1: Finding and expanding summarized actions

Lesson 1: Finding and expanding summarized actions

Duration  

40 minutes

Objectives

  • Students add sub-actions to their summarized actions

Materials

  • Writing journals
  • Personal narrative rough drafts

Discussion: Explain that many times students are tempted to give a one-sentence summary of an action. This is okay when the action is unimportant to the overall point of the story. In general, students' stories can benefit from more detailed actions to lead us through the story, rather than a mere summary.

Model: Make up a few summary sentences for your personal narrative. (Ex: I hiked up the hill in the morning. Then I saw a coyote.) Elicit student comments. Grammatically, the sentences are correct. So, what is missing? Demonstrate how you pick apart each of these actions into several sub-actions (Hike up the hill: finding the trail head, getting started, looking at scenery). Have students help you think of ideas for the second action (Saw a coyote). Leave a chart of this lesson up where students can refer to it.

Support: In pairs students help each other find summarized actions in their own rough drafts and pick them apart into sub-actions.

Individual: Students continue writing their rough drafts on their own, thinking of ways to expand each important action as they go. Share student successes with the class.









 

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Lesson 2: Reflecting on Hidden Villa experiences

Lesson 2: Reflecting on Hidden Villa experiences

Duration  

20-60 minutes

Objectives

  • Students analyze how the Hidden Villa field trip changed them

Materials

  • Writing journals
  •  

Discussion: At the end of their Hidden Villa personal narratives, I ask my students to include a reflection about how this experience has changed them. Reflecting on how our experiences influence and change us is a new skill for many students. Supporting students in developing this skill will help them own and claim responsibility for learning.

Model: Give a few examples from your own life. You may want to re-read I'm in Charge of Celebrations at this time, as the author comments about how her experience in nature changed the way she thinks and feels. You could also re-read favorite read aloud books and discuss how the main character's experiences in the story changed him or her. (Ex: In Stellaluna by Jannel Cannon, Stellaluna's experience of re-connecting with other bats changed the way she perceived herself and increased her self-esteem.)

Support: Have students work together in pairs to talk about how their experiences influenced them. Or, make an appointment to talk with students individually if this task is particularly challenging (self-reflection is challenging even for many adults!).

Examples

Students experiences do not have to be dramatic in order to be powerful. Here are examples of changes my students noticed.

1. Experience: Milking cow
    Change: Now I appreciate how hard it must be to produce the milk I drink in the morning.

2. Experience: Planting seeds
    Change: I feel excited to see how these plants grow. I am more interested in how my food is produced.

3. Experience: Night hike
    Change: I am a lot less afraid of the dark.

 

 

Part III: Revise, Edit and Publish go_top


When students begin finishing up their rough draft, review with your class how to conduct a student revision conference. Each teacher has his or her own way to go about this task. However, when reviewing your students' rough drafts, I recommend using a checklist specific to each writing genre. Being a revision advisor is challenging. I believe strongly in holding students accountable for doing a good job. I particularly want students to demonstrate the ability to revise and refine the specific elements we focused on in my mini-lessons.

I separate the steps of revision and editing, since students should focus on different aspects of their writing in each step. You may want to devise a checklist for your students' editing conferences as well. In this way they can be held accountable for particular grammar rules, sight words or vocabulary words they have been studying.

When your students have finished publishing their personal narratives, I encourage some sort of celebration, particularly since this project not only represents student's writing progress, but also their experiences on the Hidden Villa field trip. You may consider extending this writing project into a family-school activity, which reinforces student learning, informs parents about class field trips and standards, and involves the family in your students' learning. Or, you may want to touch on Oral Presentation standards by organizing an evening of sharing in which students read from their personal narratives and share pictures or drawings from the field trip.


 


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Student Worksheets

Part I

Lesson 3

Exemplary Story Beginnings