Every year I have dabbled in non-fiction writing, but this year, I did more than dabble and the results have been thrilling!
It all started the week before spring break. It was a great week to do something different and out of the ordinary; spice up our writer's workshop time! We already had a lot of experience listening to non-fiction read a-loud, but I needed something quick to bring all their understanding together. I showed the class a clip about non-fiction writing from Discovery Channel's streaming videos online. It used penguins as the focus of the clip and the students connected the idea that non-fiction is real life and informative.
Then each student took a clip board, paper and found a spot to "hide" in the classroom as they thought about an animal. You could practically hear the concentration. I asked them to draw the animal and write down one or two things they already knew. I really wanted students to avoid talking, which kind of goes against every grain of my writing process these days, but I felt it was necessary for these impressionable little ones. I wasn't too surprised when four of them picked penguin, I was prepared for that, but just about every other student picked a unique animal. We had two dogs, two cats, but then lizard, snake, elephant, flamingo, cheetah, it was exciting to hear all about these animals and what students knew!
We shared and the class got very excited about this project.
That evening I ventured to the library and checked out a book for each student about their animal. We would be doing some research on day two and I wanted everyone to have their own resource at hand.
Now, obviously these books I chose did not match their reading level, but I didn't let that stop me and neither did my students. They all poured over their books the next day, checking out the pictures that were very informative and I bopped around reading a paragraph here and there to help clarify their understanding. That was a very fun 40 minute writer's workshop. I loved telling them they were researchers, it sounded so important, because it was! There was lots of discussion and excitement over learning new information about their animal and day three would bring me even more surprises!