Once my students have completed their prewriting and have some kind of plan, they are ready to jump into drafting. This is how I teach my students in grades 3-5 to draft a personal narrative or an imagined story.
First, we meet on the carpet area for a short minilesson. I remind them that their stories should have a beginning, middle, and end; and that they should include the story elements: characters, setting, plot, conflict and solution. In case they do not remember what I mean by story elements, I will do a quick review using a familiar read aloud, e.g., Enemy Pie.
After the minilesson, students will leave the carpet area and go to their writing spots. They will have about 45 minutes to do their independent writing. They will write their first drafts in their writer’s notebooks. I like my students to write on the right hand side page of the notebook because if, later on, they want to add more to their writing they can easily do so on the left hand side page. When students are drafting the focus is on writing their stories out in full and not trying to create perfect stories in one sitting. There will be times when they will be required to write stories in one sitting, but this is not the time.
When I see a student having a hard time getting started, I will have a conference with them. I have the student tell me the story they are thinking of writing. As I listen closely, I will ask questions where I recognize they could say more in their writing. I am nudging them through telling a whole story. Next, I tell them to go ahead and write everything they just told me, and that I will check back with them near the end of the lesson. I have found that this approach has helped students to get their writing juices flowing and build their confidence.
Before students are ready to have a peer conference, I let them know what I expect to happen during that time and how they will work together. Their writing must have a beginning, middle, and end before they meet for a conference! Students will take turns being a Listener/Reader or Writer and use a peer conference sheet to help guide their conversation.
Peer Conference Sheet
(Students will meet for a maximum of 10 minutes)
- The Writer will read their work while the Listener/Reader listens.
- The Listener/Reader and Writer will discuss the questions.
Listener/Reader Responds to the Questions below:
- What did the writer do well?
- Does the story have a beginning, middle, and end?
- What are the story elements?
- Does the story make sense?
- How can the writer improve their writing?
The Writer will discuss the questions with the Listener/Reader.
The Writer will record the comments and suggestions in their writer’s notebook so that they will have a record of their conference and a reminder of what could be their next step/s in writing.
The Writer will say, “Thank You” at the end of the conference.
Once students have started drafting, I suggest giving them a reasonable amount of writing days to complete their drafts.