WRITING Read Alouds

Hi teachers! I'm Retta, and I blog at Rainbow City Learning, a name my students came up with for my classroom because I like to keep life colorful! I'm excited to share a few ideas with you on ways you can keep your writing lessons colorful and on target with  picture books! Thanks, Courtney, for inviting me!

I love picture books! My personal collection is spread across three walls of bookcases at home. When I moved from one school to another a few years ago, most of my 174 boxes contained my enormous classroom book collection. Having spent most of my career in grades 4 and 5, you may be surprised to learn that more than half of my class collection is picture books! Big kids love picture books just as much as the little guys!

When I plan my lessons, you will always find a stack of delicious and colorful picture books right next to me. I can't imagine teaching a lesson in any subject area without at least one picture book. I also love to collect baskets of them for my students to use in groups as springboards to writing, as well as for a quick and enjoyable read.

I have selected five of my favorites that I love to use for writing lessons that we all teach in grades 3, 4, and 5. I hope you'll give a few of them a try! I promise you it will be magical!

Journaling is near and dear to my heart. Readers of my blog will notice that I talk about journaling a lot as an important activity for all of us, not just our students. Journaling helps us to process our life experiences for meaning and lessons learned, and it also guarantees that we will be remembered. It's a gift we leave for future generations.

When I introduce journaling at the beginning of the year, and when I continue teaching it throughout the year, I like to use the books in the Amelia's Notebook series by Marissa Moss. I encourage kids to fill the page as Amelia does, and as they do that, many of their details can be added in the form of colorful labels, interesting writing, diagrams, arrows, and drawings.In this way, even the most reluctant writer can fill that page from Day 1. They fill it with things that have personal meaning, and they use their own talents to decide how it can be filled. Marisa Moss has an awesome website to visit for more ideas. The basket of Amelia's books is always the most popular one in my classroom library!

Personal Narrative is usually the first unit I tackle in 4th grade after introducing journaling. I ask students to reach back into the pages of their journals or into their memories and extract a special moment in time they spent with a person who is special to them in an interesting place. Owl Moon by Jane Yolen is a great book to use as a motivator. Owl Moon take us on an icy and exciting adventure with a child and dad. They choose a snowy night to go "owling" in the woods together. Kids not only love this book, they love to make the owl sounds along with you. (Yes, even the big kids love to do that! ) A great discussion can follow about similarly special times each of us has had.

Everyone's truth is true (to them). That's what I tell my students! So an opinion essay will look very different, depending on whose opinion is being expressed. Dear Mrs. LaRue by Mark Teague is an hilarious example of how opinion can look very different from reality. Mrs. LaRue sends Ike to obedience school, and he is not happy there to say the least. He sends a series of letters detailing his miserable treatment at the awful place. His opinion letters are shown in grayscale on one half of each two page spread while the actual scenario he is describing is shown in full glorious color on the facing page. This makes for a really fun picture book model that your kids can use to create their own (about school perhaps, or about a trip they took), or it can just be used as a starting point for your discussion about opinions.

Who doesn't love chocolate? The picture book No Monkeys, No Chocolate by Melissa Stewart and Allen Young will tell you more than a few things you never knew about chocolate in essay form. There is a simple heading on each page along with elaboration and of course drawings! It's a great model for informative essay writing and will inspire your students to dig a little deeper into researching some unusual facts about the topic of their own informative essays.

Of course Literary Essays are usually written about chapter books, but I love to start with picture books to show how to craft a literary essay. The picture books written by Patricia Polacco are a great place to start. Upper elementary kids love knowing that each book Ms. Polacco writes is either a memory from her own childhood, or tells the story of someone in her family or someone she has come to know very well. They love looking for "the little red-haired girl" (Patricia herself!) hidden somewhere among the pages of each of her books.

You or I could easily close our eyes and pick any Polacco book to extract a thematic statement from, and then to search for details and examples as we demonstrate the crafting of a great literary essay. Aunt Chip and the Great Triple Creek Dam Affair happens to be one of my favorites! The theme is that reading is an important part of our lives. Although TV is the culprit robbing us of reading time, of libraries, and of books themselves in this book, it's a great cautionary tale for the whole super plugged in generation we are working with now. This book has always been a favorite of my students. They love the line, "There will be consequences!" And yeah, when we give up on reading (and writing), there will of course be consequences!

I hope you've found an idea or two here to take back to your classroom, and if you liked this post, I hope you will join me soon on my blog, browsing my TpT store, or interacting with me on Facebook.

Now, hop on over to Sparkling in Second to find more read aloud ideas for writing!!!!

Sparkling in Second

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