I've recently been reminded of the power of talk. The best learning is often not paper-based. Light bulbs are ignited (I'm not sure if that imagery is beautiful or terrifying- we'll hope the former) most often through conversation. This is not a new thought, but it is something I've recently recommitted to and it spurred this activity.
At TCTELA, we got to hear Jeff Anderson speak. If you know us, you know we love us some Jeff Anderson. Skill and humor = yes please! He has a new book out called Revision Decisions.
Revision Decisions is all about looking at how a sentence is put together and why- what is the effect. Students are encouraged to mirror sentence patterns and take chances.
I found interesting sentences in literature (translation: picture books) and typed them in to a Power Point slide. They I broke the sentence in to smaller pieces.
I gave student groups 2 minutes to talk about which sentence(s) SOUND best. *For 4th grade, I found it beneficial to read the sentences aloud before starting our talk time.* I would mill around the room eavesdropping and listening for bits of conversation I particularly liked and wanted to pull into our whole group talk when the timer went off.
It's important to honor students opinions. If they can defend their answer, there is some reasoning to listen to. Sometimes short, choppy sentences are most effective to convey panic or fear. We repeated this routine 3-4 times. Then I went to a previous slide and deleted the combined sentence. I asked student groups to combine the sentences. We celebrated all grammatically correct answers on the document camera. Ain't no party like a document camera party!!
Students are engaged. Thinking is audible. There are no papers to grade. Win-win-win!!