The first bend of our literary essay unit was a challenge. Do these young writers have enough ownership over the essay structure yet? I thought. Naturally, there was quite a range in the levels of independence at the end of our opinion unit, and I found myself feeling nervous for next steps. Yet, I found many glimmers of hope in writers’ first attempts at a literary essay. There are writers who clearly understand the structure of an overall essay: introduction, 3 body paragraphs, conclusion. There are writers who clearly understand the structure of a body paragraph: thesis + support, evidence, unpack the evidence, repeat. There are writers who still need guided practice to lift the level of their organization, quality of evidence, and linking evidence back to the big ideas. I chose to celebrate the apparent efforts and choose joy as we entered the second bend of the unit.
In this second round of literary essay writing, fourth graders are anchoring themselves in a Pixar short– an idea that comes recommended by staff developers at the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project (As always, the Saturday Reunion was awesome today). The other night, as I was trying to drift off to sleep, my mind was churning about writing. I was determined to make this second bend feel a little less stressful, and a lot more joyful, for our writing community. What will I model with? An aha moment. I’ll write about a film, too. “We don’t talk about Bruno. . .” ran through my head. Encanto it is!
At the beginning of writing workshop on Thursday, I asked writers to consider something in their notebooks from the day before. As they concluded their warm-up, I invited them to the rug. Without any introduction from me, I pressed play and the images and sounds of the beloved, animated casita filled our classroom:
What happened next made joy bubble up inside of me, which was exactly what I had been searching for. An impromptu sing-along! There were shimmies and shakes and great big smiles. Imagine the excitement when we transitioned into the mini lesson and writers learned that we’d work together to write about their current favorite movie!
Writers carefully considered their own words during independent writing time that day, pushing themselves to craft a thesis that encompassed the beginning, middle, and end of their short film choice. On Friday, we enjoyed a “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” sing-along to transition our community into evidence collection.
Right now, our writing community feels joyful, engaged, and collaborative. Our hearts and voices are singing, writing clubs are in conversation, and pencils are moving. I am excited for the musical moments (Encanto songs and singing writers praises) that we will continue to have throughout next week.
As spring blooms, choose joy and continue to make choices that feel relevant to the learners in front of you. You won’t regret it. Happy writing!