Do your students say what they want to write before they write it? Whether it is a short exit ticket, the resolution of the conflict in a narrative, a lab report, or something else, there is a lot of power in oral rehearsal at every age.
An easy way to do an oral rehearsal with your students is to do a think-pair-share. You may have heard of this strategy where students take a moment to think about the answer to your question, and then turn to a partner who is near them to share the answer. To complete the cycle, have students write what they shared.
Another way to set up oral rehearsal is for students to have writing partners. Before writing, partners can share what they will write about based on the instructions for the day. After they write, they can share their writing and get some feedback from the partner. I like to set up partners for the length of the unit so that students can build that friendship that good writing partners need.
Yes, all of this takes modeling and practice.
This week I did a small experiment with two of my students who are learning English. I asked them first to write about a movie and I gave them five minutes to write. Then, I had each one tell us about a book that they liked. Here is a picture of their answers. I added a word count to each text.
Sure there is lots to work on with their English, but look at the difference in language production! Oral rehearsal is definitely worth the effort.
Here is a list of resources that I have been compiling over the years. Most of them are links to texts and curriculum from all over Latin America. Enjoy!
After breakfast a
tall, clear glass
of snow-white milk
The hot summer sun
sizzles my skin and
cooks the milk.
Thirsty, I …
Blech! Yuck! Plephtshw!
a four-legged horse
with a very flat back
carried cereal and milk
which Jack will attack
with his sword and a slurp
he’ll devour his prey
this banquet for kings
will return him to play
I hate it on the playground
when someone’s on the swing.
I wait and wait and wait my turn
but hear the lunch-bell ring.
I love it, though, in springtime
and my teacher I adore
when recess isn’t over
and she gives ten minutes more.
I hate it in the classroom
when we’re sitting down to write
and Rob blames me for punching Pete.
Teach’ knows I never fight.
I love ‘em, though, the stories
of future, present, past.
I wish those times of wonder
Could last and last and last
My school is like kitchen and
my teacher’s like a mother-
serving up the Lima beans
with cookies like no other.
My school is like a woodshop and
my teacher’s like a dad-
sanding imperfections of
rough edges that I had.
If you spend at least 30 minutes a day reading, writing, speaking and listening in English, your English will improve.
- Write for 15 minutes (But don’t sit and say, “I don’t know what to write about.” That doesn’t count as time writing.)
- Read and listen for 15 minutes.
I already shared some resources for reading/ listening online.
Here is a curated list of resources to use over the summer:
Websites for Reading
Starfall Begins with sounds; continues through short stories
Robert Munsch– Wonderful stories to read and listen
Websites for Listening
A Story Before Bed– Read and listen to authors read their stories
Keep a journal– What did you do today? What will you do tomorrow? What did you like? What didn’t you like? 46 more questions to write about, 50 more writing prompts,
http://www.readworks.org/summer-reading-passages (requires a free account)
If you know of other great resources (there are lots of them!) please add them to the comments section.
Now it is time for the first graders- How do you end an opinion paragraph? Here I offer three possibilities.
- Just Say It
Dogs are the best pet.
Vanilla is the tastiest flavor ever!
Minnesota will be the best state you ever visited!
- Simple Summary Statement
That’s why dogs are the best pet.
Clearly vanilla is the tastiest flavor ever.
For these reasons, Minnesota is finest of all the 50 states.
- Act! Do! Go! Try!
Go get a dog! You will see how great a pet they are!
So try vanilla ice cream and you will see that it is the best flavor you have ever tried!
Are you going to go to Minnesota? Yes! You will love the lakes and trees and snow.
One of my 4th graders asked me for ideas on how to start a story. We had a great conversation and looked at some wonderful examples. Here is what we ended up with:
Ways to Start a Story
Once upon a time there was…
- Dialogue (people talking)
“Mom! Help me! I can’t…” I shouted to my mom as I fell out of the tree.
“But you promised to take me to the movies today! You promised! You promised! You promised!” I started crying.
- Action (something is happening)
My brother slammed the door just as the rain started. This time he did not get caught in the rain. This time he did not get struck by the lightning.
I watched from behind the bookshelf as the thief snuck into the living room and opened the top drawer of the desk. He did not know I was there.
4a. Description (what does the setting look like? sound like?)
The spring flowers bloomed and the honeybees buzzed along the banks of the river. The sleepy town woke up to the sounds of the roaring river flowing down from the dark mountains. Something floated in the water, trapped by an old tree branch.
4b. Description (what does the character(s) look like?)
Jaime was only 4 feet, 2 inches tall but he was the best goalie the team had ever had. He could jump higher than kids who were 5 feet tall. But he never bragged about it. He did not have to.
Recently, I was reminded of the power of theater in education. Thinking about students who are new to English… but not completely new… I have been looking at improvisational theater exercises to get students talking. This is not a strategy to teach new vocabulary but to build fluency, spontaneity and confidence while speaking.
Imagine having two students create a skit where someone is lost and the other has to help the first person find his or her way. Imagine adding a third person who says that the first person is wrong. What would you say? What would you do? Can they ask for an additional person to assist?
Make it a little bit harder and open ended: Imagine students creating a skit based off of three nouns- pencil, stove, rake. Throw in a verb and shake things up a bit.
There are a million scenes that you can have students improvise based on anything that students need to practice. Try it; see what happens!