Thursday, March 15, 2012

Finishing Up Non-Fiction!

So in my past 2 posts, I’ve shared how my Non-Fiction unit has been over the past few weeks in my classroom.  When we left off (the end of week 3), I shared with you how my students were finishing the “research” and “planning” stages.  These steps are very important, so make sure to not rush kiddos through this.  Occasionally, you also might want to tie back in how much research Gail Gibbons does in order to write her books (she posts about it on her website, listed in the post below!).  If need be, plan in a few extra “flex” days.  That way, you won’t feel stressed or guilty for pushing kids through this unit!

So now, finally on to week 4—a week for creating!  Once all students have completed their research, it’s time to write.  Again, I always begin by modeling to the students my expectations and directions.  Especially with a project like this, it’s best to give students small chunks!  If you simply say “go use your information and write”, 2nd graders will not get your drift!

In this stage, I only have students work with ONE Graphic Organizer (concept) at a time.  I began by writing about the Owl’s attributes.  I have students watch while I create my paragraph.  This is a great time to also work in “Beautiful Beginnings”!  Even though we are writing Non-Fiction, we still can entice our reader within that first sentence!  See the Beautiful Beginnings FREEBIE below!  You can download it (at no cost!) on TpT:
I scale this down & have students glue it into their Writer's Notebook at the beginning of the year, so it is an easy resource to flip back to time and time again!

My students helped me come up with using an action & onomatopoeia together by starting with: “SWOOSH!  An owl can soar and swoop through the air with its broad wings.”  Aren’t they so creative?  They made me so proud! J

Then, I model how to form sentences from information on their Graphic Organizers.  I repeat to them that “we have already done all the hard work (research), now we just have to make sentences!”.  I walk step by step through my G.O., forming sentences one-by-one.  Then, I send students to their desks to get out their own Graphic Organizers and their Writer’s Notebooks. 

On this first page, I walk them through writing (even though they just watched me).  We come up with a Beautiful Beginning (then pencils up!).  Then, we write step by step through out Graphic Organizer (again, pencils up after each time—this is a helpful visual for me to see when everyone is ready to move on!). 

After we create our rough draft of the Attibutes page, I have students Pair & Share.  This is great for many reasons:

1.      They’re proud of their work so far—so let them show it off!

2.      It helps students find any of their own mistakes while reading out loud to a partner.

3.      It helps partners see what sounds good and get ideas from their peers!

When we all come back together after Pair & Share time, I randomly pick a few students to read their page out loud.  We give compliments and suggestions, then I let the class go back to their desks to make any changes for the day.

This cycle repeats itself until the class has written all of their rough drafts (generally one for each organizer, but occasionally, you can combine some that are similar).  Depending on your time frame, you may be able to create 2 rough drafts a day.  There are some days during this week that we only get to one, and there are others when we have lots of time (again, this is where that “flex” time comes in handy if you have it built into your plans!).

On Wednesday or Thursday of this week, it is all about the next stage in the writing process: editing!  I have students edit their own works with a fun colored pen.  Then they peer edit with a different color pen.  If need be, they can schedule time with me to edit, too.  During editing time, I am sure to show students my expectations for the finished product.  I ALWAYS create rubrics for major writing assignments.  I feel it makes grading easier on my end, AND it really does give an accurate grade each time!

Here are a few examples:

The Research Rubric is online at TpT; however, the Animal Book Rubric is not, because it is more specific to my class.  If you would like to view a copy or get some ideas for your own rubric, please email me!

Once editing is finished, it’s finally time to publish!  When publishing, I give students the same Authors as Mentors sheet as we used in week 3.  This year, I just deleted the top part so students would have more room to write (after all, they don’t need the directions “blurb” anymore).  Here are some examples of published pages:

When publishing, my students know we always write first, and leave illustrations for last!  This way, all the major work is finished, so if students did have to rush to finish at the last minute, they’re just rushing through their drawings (even though in an ideal world, students wouldn’t rush through anything J). 

Finally, we create our Table of Contents and our Cover/Title Page.  Friday generally tends to be a “catch-up” day for students.  This gives them time to tie up all the loose ends and to finish their project. 

They always turn out so great!  Here are some for you to see:

I am utterly in love with this project, and I'm always so proud of my kiddos' hard work!  It is such a great learning experience for students, and it is such a great assignment that blends different content areas together.  I ALWAYS have students bringing in information—some took notes on paper, some printed information from the internet, and some even went to our public library!  Also, I ALWAYS have parents tell me how much their child enjoyed the project (and how they went on to do more at home!).

I hope you enjoyed reading how this way laid out!  If you need anything, please feel free to contact me!  Also feel free to email me with any questions, comments, or concerns!  I love to hear from you! 

Keep Smiling! J


  1. hi Jillian - great blog...good info. Glad I came by...
    Traditions Laughter and Happily Ever After

    1. Thanks Vicky! I'm not 100% where I would like to be, yet, but give me some time and hopefully I'll grow to fit right in with the rest of you AMAZING teacher bloggers! Your page is an inspiration to me! :)