Reading and writing units at Long-View are often intertwined, supporting learners as they develop deep understanding of a particular genre across both domains. For the first two months of the year, learners in Red and Turquoise Bands have working on stretching their understanding of the genre of realistic fiction.
Called “Interpreting Characters,” the reading unit was focused heavily on understanding the central part of a story, the characters. Learners developed ways of thinking about characters and story in order to theorize about their readings. This unit also focused on deepening understanding of the importance of providing text evidence to support theories and assertions.
During reading workshop, each hour block starts with a short, focused “minilesson” to guide the learners as they embark on reading. The emphasis of the lesson is not a description of the activity to be done during the day's reading time or a superficial assignment, but rather a high-level lesson about an idea that the children need to know “for the rest of their lives as readers.” Our desire is to elevate and support their work as readers and to push them to stretch themselves. Our aim is to effectively support them as we sit next to them, reader to reader, supporting them as they work to handle increasingly complex texts.
Minilesson teaching points for the “Interpreting Characters” reading unit included the following:
- Read intensely for the purpose of substantiating ideas
- Increase consumption of within-reach-books
- Retell -- focus on a chronological recount of the events
- Synthesize -- describe a major idea or event while recounting relevant backstory details necessary for the listener to understand
- Take note of important details about characters and formulate theories about a certain passage of text; use the narrative arc -- the general sequencing of a story, as well as story elements such as character, setting, problem, and resolution -- to hone these skills
- Focus on characters so as to note a character’s traits and analyze the way in which characters change over the course of a story
- Discuss theme in order to deepen understanding of the overarching message in a story and potential life lessons
Through this critical study of realistic fiction during reading workshop, our young writers were also very purposely growing their knowledge of narrative writing. Our writing unit, therefore, focused on growing our skills within the genre of narrative. During read-alouds, we analyzed characters in realistic fiction stories to determine the traits of the characters that make them believable. We then took this new knowledge into our own writing. Additionally, we utilized craft moves that we learned from our “mentor writers” (authors that we read frequently throughout a unit so as to learn from their work), in order to create narrative pieces with well-developed characters and intriguing plots.
Some of the writing lessons from this unit were:
- Mine stories from ordinary moments of life, i.e., living like writers and noticing ideas for stories all around us
- Imagine stories we wish existed in the world
- Develop believable characters with internal and external traits, struggles, and motivations
- Use a story arc to plot, write, and revise our writing
- Use details to bring scenes and characters to life
These units ended in the way literacy units typically do for us at Long-View. We shared our work publicly within the Long-View community and we toasted to our hard work, while also reflecting on our growth throughout the unit. We gave feedback to each other. And then, we each started new realistic fiction stories we were eager to continue working on at home.