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It took me some thought and rethinking my approach to writing at the beginning of the year. I wanted to start my class out with first understanding themselves as writers and once I could do that, then I could build upon their skills and make the writing objectives apply to them and be fun in the process.
One fun form of writing that always gets my students, even my most reluctant writers, in the spirit are informative writing pieces. By having them become experts in something and having them write to inform others instills confidence and allows them to break down those barriers of frustration. It’s with informative writing I can see them light up with inspiration and experience that writing is a skill in which even the greatest of writers can always improve.
With October, autumn, and Halloween just right around the corner once school begins why not start off the year with the introduction of informative writing about something most students have experience with?! Jack-o-lanterns!
This download is the second creation from my How-To writing series (you can find my post about Leprechaun traps here). I am so excited to share this because it’s a whole theme mini-lesson in one complete download. The purpose of this activity is for students to create a one-of-a-kind jack-o-lantern that they’ll actually create and bring in to share with the class. As they are creating their designs and carving their pumpkins they are recording the steps and process to which they will write to explain to their readers. It’s always fun to see what the kids come up with and all of the jack-o-lanterns make for a fun room display!
Enlisting help from home...
To start, I’ve included parent letters which outline the writing project and breaks down for them the exact help I’m looking for for my students at home. Since I don’t want to take up too much time in the classroom for planning (I have other mini-lessons that explain the writing process) and creating the pumpkins, I’ve opted to include that step for an at-home activity with their parents. That way they are thinking and planning out their designs and filling out the provided homework planning sheets that come back to school. Besides, the kids always love the help and participation from family!
*I have also included copies of these planning sheets for in-classroom planning (sans the HOMEWORK tab in the top right corner).
Brainstorming & transition words.
One of the keys to writing informative writing is using key transitional words like: first, then, next, after that, and finally. Once students become familiar with these they can find new transitional words or phrases to enhance their writing!
The planning sheets provided in this download are clear and easy-to-follow for writing out their directions on how to create their jack-o-lantern AS they actually do it. With parent supervision they are to create their jack-o-lanterns and be creative in their designs. I leave it up to them as to how decorative they would like to get. Then, after they’ve recorded their step-by-step directions they move on to their first draft.
Drafting makes perfect.
Once students are ready to begin writing their pieces they are to complete their first draft where they sketch a picture of their steps and write a couple sentences to explain what the step is. After following through the writing process, editing/revising their work both themselves and with their peers, and a writing conference to check in with me, they can move on to finalizing their writing with their final draft and publication. This download is also complete with an editing checklist for their own use and use with buddies.
A writing celebration.
I love the concept of celebrating the culmination of their hard work. By celebrating each of the students and the effort they’ve put into their work helps them see the value in themselves as writers and their peers. Once students are finished with their final drafts and have published their work, they are to display their writing and share the actual jack-o-lanterns they’ve created. Students get the chance to see each others writing and celebrate the budding authors they’ve only just started to become!
I’m excited to continue adding themes to this series so be on the lookout! Oh, never miss a post by signing up for my email list (on the sidebar!).