I've been so frustrated these past few weeks reading Best Practices in Writing Instruction. I feel like there such a gaping hole between what our curriculum requires of us and what we know to be best practices. Don't get me wrong, there are some things I like about our curriculum. It encourages the process of writing. Which is awesome. It encourages the analysis of various pieces of writing before trying it out on our own, and uses lots of modeling and the gradual release of responsibility. But it can be incredibly prescriptive and confining for my young writers. Our focus is on the five paragraph essay - for three grading periods out of the year. Then we move to the five paragraph persuasive essay for the final marking period. I have found it near impossible to find mentor texts outside of our curriculum book that we can use that follow the structure of what I'm trying to teach. Who writes 5 paragraph essays? Seriously, if you can find an awesome, poignant 5 paragraph intro-body-conclusion style essay in a magazine, newspaper, blog, etc - send it my way. 4, 6, or 7 paragraphs would work too.
Anyway, I think the big missing piece for me is the motivation piece. Almost my entire class detests writing. So first on my agenda, or maybe I should say next to about 43583 other things on my agenda, is getting my kids to enjoy writing. I think that comes with choice and voice in writing, which is hard to do within the 5-paragraph essay structure.
So I finally ordered Joann Portalupi and Ralph Fletcher's Nonfiction Craft Lessons. I think I should have ordered this book a long time ago. (Thank you Amazon!) I love love love love this book. It has copies of mentor texts in the back that I think I could weave into our curriculum, and sample mini-lessons that actually show the language used during the mini-lessons - something I really need right now. So many of the lessons completely align with our curriculum but have a little more zazz in them. (Did you know that Urban Dictionary actually includes the word zazz?)