Friendly Thank You Letter – Using Thinking Maps

September 25, 2007 at 6:10 pm | Posted in elementary, graphic organizers, Open Court, second grade, strategies, thinking maps, writing | 4 Comments

This is a piece of writing my second grade students work on for two weeks. It helps prepare my students for the Open Court Unit 2 writing assessment. This is the first major writing assignment in Unit 2 for us. I used the writing process that I learned from Write From the Beginning because it explicitly teaches many skills and makes clear the writing process.

You can also read more about writing using Thinking Maps at my previous posts.

The prompt

Please write a thank you letter to Ms. R using the friendly letter format.

Second grade Open Court teachers in LAUSD would recognize the prompt as the unit assessment prompt, modified.

The Rubric

The class rubric is charted and hangs in front of the class through out the entire writing process. I refer to it again and again daily as well as whenever I teach a particular skill that is mentioned in the rubric. Every student knows exactly what needs to be done to get a good grade.

friendly_letter_rubric

The Context

While working in the computer lab one day, the fire drill alarm went off and drove us out of the computer lab. Ms. R invited the students to return after recess to complete the presentations that they were working on. The students felt grateful and excited at the opportunity, and I immediately grabbed at the chance to do a major piece of writing using a shared experience. Also, I couldn’t resist the urge to do some relevant writing with a real-world purpose. Ms. R was very happy to receive these letters.

Pre-write: The Circle Map

We started by brainstorming some things we want to write about using a Circle Map. We did this as a whole group using Think-Pair-Share and small group discussion strategies. Then, the students created their individual Circle Maps. Students were encouraged to “pull out” from the class circle map and to add their own ideas.

studentwriting0007

Pre-write: Tree Map

Next, we had to organize our thinking. We used a Tree Map to organize our writing into three main ideas. At this point, I am using the academic language of “main ideas.” We created a class Tree Map, then students created their individual Tree Map. Again, I encouraged students to pull out or use their own ideas. Some students are comfortable with coming up with their own main ideas, some are not.

studentwriting0006

I apologize. My scanner cut off the top of the Tree Map and I just didn’t feel like re-scanning. :)

Pre-write: Flow Map

Next, we created a flow map to organize our writing. Please visit this post “Flow Map for Writing – Explanation” for an in-depth discussion of the Flow Map and how I use it in the classroom.

studentwriting0005

I always model for the students first. We always start with the three main ideas, followed by details. I explicitly tell students to use as many details as they are comfortable. Some have one detail for each main idea, some have two or three details. Next, we work on the opening sentence, which should have Who, Did What, When, Where, and sometimes Why. Last, we work on the closing sentence. Here, for this particular letter, I gave them the sentence frame “I felt ____ when you _____ because ____”.

Pre-write: Pull Out and Talk

“Pull Out and Talk” is an English Language Development strategy that I picked up and incorporated into the writing process. I allows students to orally rehearse their writing and in a sense, write their letter without putting pencil to paper. A lot of revision takes place in the pull out and talk phase. I model for students. I point to each section of the Flow Map and write my letter out loud, saying “Dear Ms. R, thank you for yadiyadiyadi” all the way until “Yours truly, Mr. CityTeacher.” I go back and revise by saying, “I don’t like that detail, let me change it to ____”. Then, I have student Think-Pair-Share their Pull Out and Talk.

pullout_talk

By sharing with different partners and in different small groups, my students might have a chance to pull out and talk three or four times, revising each time, before they write.

First Draft: Pull Out and Write

“Pull Out and Write” is the extension of “Pull Our and Talk”. By now, the students know very well what they are going to write down and it’s a quick process for them to jot down their first draft. Of course, I model first, particularly the letter format.

studentwriting0003

studentwriting0004

Editing

I pulled out parts of different students letters, charting them on butcher paper, then edited and revised them with the class. I would of course emphasize particular skills or common mistakes. The class rubric is very useful at this point. We are editing to make sure that we get as many points as possible. This is where students find that if they are missing an opening sentence, they better write one in right away! Then, students edit their own paper. I would help them individually and in small groups of course, but during editing, I normally let the students guide their own editing. I don’t normally go in with a bright red pen and mark it all up, leaving the students in confusion as to why their entire paper is red. If you look closely at the first draft above, you can see where B edited her own paper. Since this letter was going to be a letter that another adult would read, I did make an exception in this case and edited the paper with the student.

Final Draft

Here’s the final draft!

studentwriting0001

studentwriting0002

By the way, this student did have a closing and a signature for her friendly letter. My scanner cut it off again.

Another Student Example

Here’s a student who isn’t where B is, but is learning nonetheless.

studentwriting0010

studentwriting0009

studentwriting0012

All these letters would still receive a grade of 2 on the Open Court unit assessment. Currently, my students and I are working on descriptive language and details sentences in order to help us get to a grade of 3 or 4. We are getting there!

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4 Comments »

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  1. [...] A second grade, friendly thank you letter – The entire [...]

  2. [...] This student was absent during the days when we worked on our Flow Map so he had to use the class created Flow Map for his writing.  The other students use their own Flow Map.  In the video, the student is orally rehearsing his writing prior to writing.  He is doing what we call “Pull Out and Talk”.  For a more detailed explanation of our writing process, please visit this previous post. [...]

  3. [...] Friendly Thank You Letter – Using Thinking Maps [...]

  4. [...] This student was absent during the days when we worked on our Flow Map so he had to use the class created Flow Map for his writing.  The other students use their own Flow Map.  In the video, the student is orally rehearsing his writing prior to writing.  He is doing what we call “Pull Out and Talk”.  For a more detailed explanation of our writing process, please visit this previous post. [...]


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