Getting Started


In the rest of “Social Studies” in TAKR, I was drawn to the story about the dancing man at the concert. It struck me as very sad; he didn’t ever believe that he could get all the applause. It reminded by of a quote in the great movie: “Perks of Being a Wallflower” by the main character. He says, “We accept the love we think we deserve.” I think we are constantly under-estimating ourselves. Amy echoes the sentiment 4 pages later, when she says “Just look at all of us, quietly doing our thing and trying to matter. The earnestness is inspiring and heartbreaking at the same thing” (121). It’s like we are all walking around, thinking we are the only ones that are desiring to be noticed and appreciated for who we are, and we reject any compliment trying to break that stigma. I wish we would all (myself included) just freely give, and most importantly, receive declarations of our worthiness without pretending we don’t need it to survive.

Chapter 3 of Mentor Texts gave me concrete ideas of how to help students choose topics for their writing, as did the “twoteachers” and “launching the writer’s workshop” reading. I appreciate a step-by-step plan, and that is what these readings gave me. Here is my plan so far that is a culmination of all of the ideas presented in those pieces:

  1. Introduce writing notebook in an irresistible way
  2. convey to students that their voices/stories are valuable and amazing
  3. show students a strategy and the context of that strategy
  4. list your own interpretations of that strategy (through map or some visual)
  5. pick 1 item from list to verbalize a story (can illustrate as you’re telling it)
  6. write your first draft with the help of the students
  7. invite students to try this process

Generating topics can be done using lists, heart maps, or hand maps. Here is my first attempt at a heart map:


It is important for you and your students to try and narrow down the writing topic to one specific event or trait. For example, I chose Hollis, a 2-year old I nannied all summer, as the topic for my first draft of a “Your Turn Lesson.”


Hook: I would show a picture of Hollis and talk about his crazy antics that I had to deal with all summer (getting into the bathtub with his clothes on, screaming when I tried to wash his hair, spraying me with the hose, picking up dead mice that his cats killed with a shovel, “swimming” at Wildcat lake, our Tweetsie day, etc.).

My little dude and I riding the train and making scary faces!

Purpose: I put Hollis on my heart map because he does a lot of funny things I can write about. I am going to write about one habit that is especially hilarious to me: he is OBSESSED with pockets! He always wants to wear pants with pockets, and he will scream and cry if you do not give into this demand. It is important when we are writing about something or someone on our heart map that we try to focus on ONE thing about them. I am going to make a list of all the things about Hollis and his pockets. 

Brainstorm: I would verbally list all the things that have to do with Hollis and his pockets:

  • loves to take things that aren’t his, and calls them “his,” especially when they are forbidden
  • we have to empty his pockets whenever we go anywhere
  • he will put things in other people’s pockets or take things out and will tell you if you have pockets or not
  • things frequently in his pockets: pacifier, sticks for Remo (his dog), keys, “dollars” (coins), shiny things, remotes, chapstick

Model: I will show the students a written list of all of the things I verbally listed about Hollis and his pockets. Then I will draft a short entry in front of the students with help from them to include everything from my list. Here is my first draft:


Shared/Guided Writing: I will ask the students to choose someone (animal or person) on the heart map that they have created that does something or likes something funny like Hollis and his pockets. After that, I will have the students turn and talk to a partner about this person or animal. I will be moving around the room listening and asking questions to help them further their thinking, such as: “how did you notice that thing? What do they do? For how long? What does it look like when they do that?” After this, I will invite one or two groups that I have noticed including a lot of detail in this section to share with the class their person or animal’s habit or trait. Then, I will direct the students to generate a map or list in their notebooks of what they talked about. They will share this briefly with their partners as well to ensure that they have gotten all the key points that they have verbalized earlier.

Independent Writing: At this point, I will tell students to use their lists to write a first draft in their notebooks about that person or animal. I will walk around and ask questions to scaffold students as they write. I also will be looking for two students whose writing will be shared in the reflection portion of the workshop.

Reflection: I will have the pre-selected students share their entries, and have their peers offer feedback. I will use these guiding questions to help them give feedback:

What did you like about this entry?

How did this author talk about the person or animal?

What questions do you have for the author about their topic/What else do you want to know?

Citations (I highly recommend them all):

Chbosky, S. (Director). (2012). The perks of being a wallflower [Motion picture on DVD]. United States: Summit Entertainment, LLC.

Dorfman, L. R., & Cappelli, R. (2007). Mentor texts: Teaching writing through children’s literature, K-6. Portland, Me.: Stenhouse.

Launching the Writing Workshop. Calkins, L. M. (2006). A guide to the writing workshop, grades 3-5. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Rosenthal, A. K. (2016). Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal. New York, NY: Penguin Group USA.

Shubitz, S. (2015). Building a culture of bravery in writing workshop. Retrieved September 05, 2016, from


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