The last day before Spring Break was bound to be busy. We changed up our schedule and after sharing Ancient Civilizations projects (some in Mindcraft, others on paper- whether posters or booklets) the students planned their end of unit writing on demand. I reminded them that they had learned a lot in the unit and had many more stories inside them that were waiting to come out. I read them the prompt (really just a reminder that they were writing a fictional story) and we talked about a few ways they could plan. The students had about 15 minutes to plan and it was amazing to see them independently using strategies we had used in the unit (including story booklets, storytelling to a partner, trying out leads, and more). They left their plans on their desk and then went off to recess. Upon returning we watched a play by another class.
As we returned to the classroom I reminded them that they would have up to one hour to write and could use any of the tools in the classroom to help them. I reminded them that when they finished they could revise and edit right away or work on something else and come back to the piece before the deadline. I spent the hour observing them and noticed so much. Some children looked at their plan a lot, others did not. One student lost his plan (argh!)- I still do not know how that happened. Some students consulted dictionaries, personal word walls and thesauruses. Some took breaks from writing to revise and edit, while others reread their work when they were stuck. One student who finds organizing her ideas challenging finished fairly quickly and was involved in major revision including lots of chopping and changing. I told her she could recopy her work if she had time AND thought it would help her work (she ended up doing that, and proudly turned in both drafts. Everyone was fully engaged for at least 40 minutes. A few wrote right up until the end (writing across 7 pages!). Every student seemed to love their new piece and they wanted to share. After hearing a few read their work aloud I was bowled over by the progress they have made. Their stories were more complex, yet more clear than the pre-assessment writing. They had a better handle on story structure and were crafting more purposefully.
At the end of the day we were headed to a fourth-grade class for a writing share. I told the students they could share their published piece from the unit or their assessment work and about half chose each. The energy and enthusiasm they had for this sharing time was impressive in the waning moments of the school day. Today was definitely a day where writing rocked in 3EV!