I’ve had fun this week kicking off a space-themed writing camp with our seven third grade classes! They were starting a science unit on space, and the teachers were ready to start copying worksheets. Our reading specialist and I jumped in to add a writing piece to their space unit, with a picture book twist. Here’s what we did.
Several of our visiting authors have told us that they use a “word basket” when they start a new writing project. They write down on paper all the words they can think of about their topic, and keep adding to the list as they hear related words they like. When they get stuck in their writing, they can go back to this list (their “word basket”) and pull out a strong word.
I explained the “word basket” idea to our third graders, and they opened up their writer’s notebooks and each made a list of nouns, then verbs, then adjectives about space. They talked to their neighbors, shared ideas, and wrote their lists. Why should students work silently on worksheets, when they could be learning from each other in conversations?
Mad Libs with a Picture Book
Next, we played “mad libs” with one of our favorite space picture books, Even Aliens Need Snacks, by Matthew McElligott.
I had created Google Slides with the text of the book, leaving out a key word in every sentence. I asked our third grade authors to supply me with nouns, verbs, and adjectives to fill in the blanks. Here’s the list I used.
Together we wrote a fun, silly story. Here are a couple of excerpts; the words highlighted in yellow are the words students volunteered from their lists.
As we read our story together on the big screen, our third grade authors added new nouns, verbs, and adjectives to their word “baskets.”
They left the library (aka “writing camp”) enthusiastic about their space studies, and ready to write! They’ll use library books and databases like BrainPop and PebbleGo as they continue learning in the classroom. Their word baskets (and enthusiasm) will fuel their galactic writing all week long.
Sometimes I think that our teachers get caught up in the scope and sequence and feel forced to plow through the content, to get it “covered.” As librarians, we can use our resources, like picture books, to bring a little magic to the curriculum: fun, laughter, and engagement in our writing camp. This activity only took 45 minutes out of the week, but it added a spark to the start of this science unit. I’m glad we were able to collaborate!
How do YOU use your library resources to help out your teachers?