Ideas Mini-Lessons to help students generate IDEAS:
Read aloud Aunt Flossie's Hats by Elizabeth Fitzgerald Howard. In the book, Aunt Flossie says that the hats are her memories and that each one tells a story.
After reading the book aloud, have students think about the things they have in their houses that tell a story. It could be a stuffed animal they got at the fair, or a baseball that went through the neighbor's window, or a shirt they wore on a special occasion.
Have students record their ideas on their topic lists.
Tell students they have people in their lives who would make good writing topics. Read aloud several sections from books, such as My Mother's Chair and My Great Aunt Arizona. Call their attention to the way the author shows how the characters are special even though they are ordinary people.
Have the students add the names of people who are special to them to their topic lists. On the days following this lesson you could model your own writing about someone special to you.
Ask students who their kindergarten teachers were. Ask them to think about what they remember best about kindergarten. It could be a friend, the teacher, or an event. Model by telling students about several things that you can remember about kindergarten that you could write about.
Choose one memory that you will write about. Have students go back to their topic lists and add something they could write about kindergarten, if they have an idea.
Model writing your story for the students. (This may take several days.)
Tell students that binoculars can help you see the details in things that are far away. When we write we can use questions and, like binoculars, the questions we ask can help us add more detail to our writing.
Begin by posting a very vague story that you have written.
For Example: "I have a dog. He is funny."
Have students ask you questions about your story. Hopefully, they will ask questions such as: What's your dog's name? How long have you had your dog? What does he look like? What does he do that is funny?
List their questions at the bottom of your piece of writing. After they are finished asking the questions, model for students as you rewrite your piece to include the answers to the questions they asked.
Have your students reread their own stories and give you any pieces they would like to use binoculars on. You can use these pieces for future mini-lessons. Put the students' work on an overhead transparency and record the questions. Be sure to share the rewritten versions as a future mini-lesson and compare the two pieces of writing. Ask them which gives them a clearer "picture".
Keep a class list of writing topics and add to it whenever anything occurs that would be a good topic. See page 96 of 4 Blocks. As an addition to this idea, whenever you read a book aloud to students that would make a good jumping off place for writing, add the idea to the list.
For example, after reading Big Mama by Donald Crews you could add "A Visit to my Grandma's" to the class topic list. After reading Hazel's Amazing Mother by Rosemary Wells, you could add "The Time Some Big Kids Picked on Me."
At writing time students can take topics off the class list, make them more specific, and put this on their own lists. You could model how to do this in a mini lesson.