Friday, August 31, 2012

Field-trip Reports, Storytelling and Teaching Writing

We spent all day Monday writing reports about our weekend field trip to Prescott, Arizona (home of the Wild West). Although Prescott is known as the Wild West, my kids spent the majority of their time at The Heritage Park Zoo and Geo tracking with dad as I was in a conference all day Saturday. We also toured the old buildings in downtown Prescott, very cool and walked the square. It was a fun family weekend and we plan to go back soon. I am told that the Zoo alone was worth the trip and very affordable according to my hubby. It was a mere $18 for one adult and two children.

Anyway, the kids were instructed on Friday to take good notes because I would expect a full report on Monday and that they did! If you are a regular reader, you may be wondering if I really make my first grader write reports....yes, yes I do. Are they long? No. Are they detailed? Not really, but my point here is to lay a foundation, and that we do. I think the best way to describe our process is in steps.

Step one begins when they are old enough to sit up. I start reading to my kids and telling them silly stories from the beginning. I make sure they have a good foundation of classics and we story play as well. If you are not creative, don't sweat it. Take your children to the Arizona Museum for Youth. They usually have several areas where kids can roll play their story adventures. The last time we were there we acted out a lovely Alice in Wonderland scene as well as Goldilocks and the Three Bears.

Step two comes along around age 4 to 5 and that is to get them to start making up their own verbal stories. We sometimes do this by drawing pictures or using puppets. Many times I will simply say, "tell me a story," at the end of circle time and this sparks a whole book. I also try to reinforce their confidence by writing their stories down for them.

Step three comes in the form of story boards. This is where your teachers intuition comes in. Sometimes you will give them a story board and they will be overwhelmed by it. If you cannot talk them through it, push it aside and try again in a month or so. Don't frustrate them with it. Eventually they will love it. You can find a great storyboard worksheet for print at Kid Zone.

Step four is to break up the parts of a story or report into beginning, middle and end. There is another formal worksheet at Kid Zone for this. I have found it is helpful to pair the story board worksheet with the writing worksheet for 3rd thru 5th grade. We even use story boards for reports. It helps them organize their thoughts.

Finally, we use bubbles. My daughter is doing 4th and 5th grade work and she is just starting with the bubbles. A bubble is a sort of story or report diagram. the middle bubble is the theme of the whole story or paper, the topic if you will. Off that bubble springs three or four other bubbles, these bubbles house the topic sentence for each paragraph. Tiny bubbles spring off those topic sentences with supporting details. Again this activity helps them to organize their thoughts.

Finally, we try to give the work a formal presentation for whatever level the student is at. For my youngest, I help him write out the paper nicely, for my oldest I usually ask her to type it up and if it is really good I post it on the blog. She also loves to add pictures to her reports. The important thing is to let them own their work.

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