Thursday, November 10, 2016

Manipulatives Are NOT Just For Math

Hands-On Literacy

Dear Readers,

When I sit down to read a professional resource, I am surrounded by post-it notes, highlighters, pens, pencils and sometimes a notebook. I interact with my text by marking pages, annotating the margins, jotting down notes, etc. I have come to consider these "manipulatives" for reading and writing. I share these strategies with my students.

The Writing Units of Study have proven to be excellent resources and I wanted to think of a fun and creative way to prepare my 7th grade students for their narrative writing. 

After reading A Long Walk to Water and learning about the Lost Boys of Sundan, I tried out an idea I had seen in a book. The idea was to collect artifacts about the unit being studied. I passed out empty boxes and those became our "trunks". 

I took my students to the library where they were tasked with finding "artifacts" to integrate all the information they had learned. It proved to be an extremely beneficial learning and research experience as we had discussions regarding....

  • maps
  • culture
  • countries
  • climate
  • refugee camps
  • military
  • civil war

.....just to name a few! The second piece of integrating their learning was to write a short narrative, using their artifacts as inspiration, from the perspective of a refugee. This document was then added to their collection of artifacts.

As we continued on our "collecting" journey, the students continued researching through informational articles. As a result, they chose relevant and key vocabulary to add to their artifacts using index cards. In addition, we built a class anchor chart of writing techniques, vocabulary and possible seed moments.

Finally, I started creating a Story Arc model to share with my class. The Units of Study does a fantastic job incorporating external and internal story elements. I thought, I bet the kids would love getting a huge piece of chart paper and post-its to create their Story Arc. Well, their eyes lit up like they were receiving the best gift! They have had a wonderful time using chart paper, markers and post-its to plan their writing. 

The post-it notes have proven to be a confidence builder. The students can move, edit and revise without having to erase, cross out and feel like they are starting over. I always tell them the messier the better, it means a lot of thinking is happening! I even showed them how to be resourceful and turn the post-it notes over to use both sides.

I have sincerely had a blast piloting this process with them. Language and Literature can be "hands-on" when we think outside the box and "re-consider" our definition of tactile learning.

Happy writing!