Hi Everyone! This particular post has been a long time coming, but I’ve had several personal distractions that have kept me from actually sitting down and writing it. I’m hoping that by writing about it, I’ll put good karmic vibes out and things will work out in a positive way. Recently my poor pup, Lillie (The dots behind Dots-n-Spots) has been having some pretty serious testing. For those of you who aren’t “dog people”, I apologize for this personal story.
Anyway, about two years ago (around the time I started this blog), Lillie and I were playing in the backyard with her basketball. She likes to pop them and them use them as a frisbee. Well, she caught her paw in a rabbit hole and broke her ankle. She had surgery and the ankle healed itself. Well, unfortunately, like a lot of dogs who have leg traumas, the opposite legs become high risk for problems because the animals begin to compensate on their “good” legs. Well, my girl did this and for a while she was doing water rehab and taking anti inflammatory medicine. If you have dogs on NSAIDs, then you know blood tests are required to make sure the liver continues to work properly. Well, over the past several months her liver enzymes have skyrocketed to the point of high risk for liver failure. I stopped with the NSAIDs and they continued to rise, I stopped giving her any extra supplements, and they continued to rise, she had an ultrasound of her liver, bladder, gall bladder, and everything looked fine. Then, it was finally time to biopsy the liver itself to see what is going on. In the meantime, she’s been feeling/acting fine but obviously something serious is going on. This past Wednesday she had the biopsy and an x- ray. The biopsy was of her liver and the x-ray was of her knee. I won’t find out the results of the liver until this upcoming week, but her knee shows a partial ACL tear. I honestly thought with how bad she’s limping and toe touching it, that it was a full tear.
Well, in the meantime, they sent my dog home and she has been a complete zombie. I guess I felt I wasn’t fully informed of what to expect from this procedure. She is so lethargic and sad. She is not acting like herself and it’s going on 4 days. I feel like a horrible mom and just want her to feel better. The worst part for me is knowing that once the liver is figured out, she is going to have another procedure on her knee to recover from. I don’t plan to do the surgery until school is out, but if it gets any worse, I don’t know if I’ll be able to wait. If you can keep my pup in your thoughts, we would both appreciate it.
Speaking of appreciate, I want to truly thank each and every one of you who has ever purchased a product or lesson plan from me. Just know that your financial support has helped me to be able to take care of Lillie the way she deserves. Without the income I’ve received from TpT, I don’t know how I would have been able to afford all her past (and future) expenses. I honestly look forward to the day that one of the checks I earn can be used for something fun. But, in the meantime, Lillie and I appreciate everything you have done for us.
If you read this far… you seriously rock. I don’t like to get too “real” on here because I know a lot of times people just visit blogs for ideas and not downer stories. But, like I said, we can take all the positive thoughts we can get.
Moving on… let’s talk Autobiographies!
Since Common Core now dictates the writing of autobiographies for 4th graders, I knew I had to figure out how I wanted to teach this. So several, several months ago, I was on TpT looking for Autobiography lesson plan ideas. I happened to come across this unit from the amazing Christi Fultz of Ms. Fultz’s Corner. I loved how she had all the topics listed and included, and best of all that she was giving her unit away for free. As I sat down to plan out my unit, I tweaked her ideas a bit to fit my class’s needs, but essentially, my plans came from Christi. So, before I go on… THANK YOU, Christi!
Here is a breakdown of how I taught this particular unit in Writer’s Workshop.
First, I started with an Autobiography Anchor chart to get my kiddos familiar with the type of writing we were about to tackle.
We discussed how writer’s write stories about themselves when they feel they have accomplished something worth mentioning. (or they “think” it’s worth mentioning 😉 ) Then, we discussed how this is a form of nonfiction writing but has the storytelling aspect to it.
I explained that we were going to be writing our own Autobiographies in writing class and that at the end, we were going to put them together into a book. I’m not going to lie, at first, they were less than enthusiastic. Most kids realized how much writing they were going to have to do. But, once I told them they were going to be made into a book, the excitement got greater.
For my hesitant writers and for general knowledge, I posted our “schedule” of topics.
I explained that I would be modeling each prompt for them before they began their own sloppy copies. I also explained we would never do more than one a day. This again seemed to relieve some anxiety.
Then, came the actual writing. I wish I had taken pictures of this part, but I completely forgot. But, basically, this is how it went. Each day, I would introduce a new topic/prompt. I would literally write my sloppy copy while they watched. I used this time to model what I was thinking while I was writing, how it’s okay to change your mind about a topic, and most importantly, how to start and finish the prompt. I really feel that taking this time each day to model is what helped my students to complete their prompts successfully. It did take a lot of time, but it also reduced the amount of comments such as, “I don’t know what to write about.” or “I don’t know how to start this.” that I usually hear during prompt writing.
To explain the “Must Haves” and “May Haves”, it goes like this… No matter what, each student will include an Introduction, Meet my Family, Memories, My Interests, and Future Goals section of their Autobiography. Then, they “may” choose the final two prompts they want to write about. They can choose from My Pets, My Best Friend, a second Memory, or the Me Poem which I changed to the I Am Poem. This way they could feel more ownership of what they were writing and not feel like I told them exactly what they had to do. Even though their final copies didn’t include all 9 prompts, I still modeled each one so that they had an idea of the writing I was looking for. Again, model, model, model.
In the middle of this project, I began to think about all the editing that was going to need to happen. I immediately began to wish I hadn’t started this because I thought about all the work I was going to have to do clean this writing up. I ended up taking some of the pressure off myself and putting it back on the students. We took an entire writing session to reteach how to appropriately edit and revise our writing. Then, we focused on Peer Editing. Lastly, I sent the prompts home for Parent Edit. I will admit, I was a little disappointed in how many of the papers came back without any corrections. Don’t get me wrong, many parents helped their child, but a scary amount came back untouched. I blamed myself though, because I should have sent home a checklist of sorts for parents to use to edit, but I didn’t think of this until they had brought them back. Side note question… Does anyone out there have a checklist like this that is geared towards parents? Would you be willing to share? Have you had success? Any thoughts/ideas are appreciated!
So, this is how I managed the overall editing of the prompts. As students finished their sloppy copies, they would keep them in their writing binders behind the “Genre Writing” tab. Every three prompts we would take some literacy time to edit/revise and peer edit the previous three prompts. Then, they had two nights to have a parent edit. This way, classmates and parents weren’t expected to edit all prompts at once. I was available while students were working for conferences/questions about grammar, word usage, and most of all spelling. We really put our “Have a Go” sheets to work for this unit.
Once we had cleaned up our writing and worked out the kinks… the fun really started. Each day students would recopy their drafts onto their final copy stationary. I really wanted to have them type them, but I think some of my kiddos would be typing until 5th grade. Plus, there is something about actually writing things out because when they are old like me, they can pull these out and look at their 4th grade handwriting. Idk, just seems more special this way.
To ensure quality effort, I again showed them how I transferred my sloppy copy version to my final copy. Then, (as you’ll see below), they needed to color their headings. They were told, and fully understood, that as the teacher I reserved the right to have them rewrite any/all pages that I felt were not up to their quality writing abilities. This meant, if they slopped it down in 2 minutes without using their neatest handwriting or they colored their headings without taking care, then they win the opportunity to write it all over again. I said all this in my happy teacher voice, but I did make one friend redo their introduction because he tried to see if I was serious. Yes, little man, I’m serious. After that one “incident”, all my friends really did do their absolute best. I was so happy to see the pride they were taking in their project. Here is a pictorial breakdown of my final project. I can’t seem to find my “Future Goals” Picture. I’ll take a picture on Monday and then update this post.
The Cover. I let each student choose their background for their story. I used black construction paper for everyone’s to give them a more uniform look.
The Table of Contents. My students completed this LAST. After we had glued absolutely everything else, I had them sit with me in groups of 6 and we filled out their page numbers and their topics.
Meet my Family
My Best Friend
My Pets-I was at a training the day this prompt was presented. I actually asked the Guest Teacher to model her own story about her pets. Luckily, she had pets and she did write her own story. I’ve just not gotten my own written yet. Doh! Bad Teacher!
Future Goals-To be posted
and last but not least… The Back Cover
After they saw my finished project, they were so excited to put their books together. So, in groups of 5 or 6, I went through where to glue what topic. Then, I helped them number their pages and complete their Table of Contents. As I sat with each group I was able to ask them their favorite part of the project and most of them talked about their families or their memories. I can’t wait to finish reading all of them because I do feel like I’ll get to know my students even better. Here are few action shots of my hardworking Goobers!
A bit of helpful advice… have some extra glue sticks handy.
They will need a good amount to glue their whole project together.
Finally, we hung them proudly in the hallway. I’m so happy with how they turned out!
If you have read this post to the end… THANK YOU! Hopefully it has inspired you to tackle your own Autobiography unit with your students. But I’m not planning to post this in my store or on GoogleDocs, as this was NOT my original idea, but Christi’s idea that inspired my project is available for FREE here.
Here is what you’ll get…