Tuesday, July 23, 2013

National Writing Project Day #12: "I Wonder" Writing & Teaching Voice

As expected, I had another wonderful day at the UWM-WP!  I love that every day, I take at least one idea away that I can use in my classroom.  Today, I have TWO ideas to share!

First, "I Wonder" writing, shared by the great Michelle....

This is a great writing warm up or idea generating activity.  Using the stem "I wonder...", students generate a list of at least 20 statements that they wonder about. 

Here are some of my wonderings...

I wonder how many words I will read in my lifetime.
I wonder how Toby feels about Rosie.
I wonder if Lasik surgery would hurt (much).
I wonder how the birds know to wake up even before the sun comes up.
I wonder if my dogs understand me when I talk to them.

After generating a list of 20 statements, they cross out half of them to leave their ten favorites. 

Then the students have a writing choice (I love choice in writing!)-- they can either arrange all of their I wonder statements into an "I Wonder" poem, or chose one of their wonderings and write about it.

As I mentioned in previous posts, I have discovered that I love writing so I want to take this opportunity to share my wondering poem about how my older dog (Toby) feels about our newer dog (Rosie).

How Do You Feel?

You were probably perfectly happy until that day that we brought Rosie the Puggle into our family.
Dad would throw your tennis ball and you would chase it.
You would snuggle next to me on the floor and I would rub your belly.
As we ate dinner, you begged silently at my side, hoping for a treat from the table.
The kids would take you for a walk up the hill for a field trip away from home.

Life was good.

Then, one day, your life as an only-dog child ended.
Rosie arrived.

Now as you chase your tennis ball, she runs by your side, barking an obnoxious bark.
She snuggles on the sofa with me at night, a place where you are not allowed because of your shedding white hair.
You have to share the table scraps with her, as she sits on my other side begging too.
When it’s time for a field trip, she tags along…every time.

But I also wonder how your life has changed for the better.

You now have a companion who will help keep you young with her crazy antics.
You both play together, heads down, butts up in the air, as you taunt each other.
When we are not home, you have someone to keep you company so you don’t get lonely.
When it storms and the thunder scares you, Rosie can reassure you in dog language that it will all be OK.
Because she sometimes makes “bad Puggle choices”, you can watch as SHE gets yelled at.
Yes, life is good.

Because sometimes it takes the glass being half empty to realize that it was really half full.

I think I Wonder writing would be great to use at the beginning of a unit in science or social studies, to generate wonderings about a read aloud, or for general questions that the students are curious about.  It is similar to the "W" in a KWL, but takes inquiry to the next level as it adds the writing aspect.  We want to teach our students to be inquisitive and to learn how to ask questions, not just answer them, don't we?

The second thing I want to share today is a very cool activity for teaching VOICE in writing.  This activity came from Sara's inquiry project about teaching mini-lessons in the writing workshop. 

Voice is something that is so important to writing (it is one of the 6 Traits), but is difficult to explain, other than to say that voice is what makes your writing sound like you and not like someone else.

Here's an activity to make that concept more concrete.

Explain to your students that you will be asking them to put their heads down with their eyes closed.  Tell them that you are going to walk around the room and tap some of them on the shoulder.  If they get tapped, you want them all to say the same thing.  (Put a sentence on the board like "Fourth grade rocks!" or something simple like that.)

Walk around the room and slowly tap four or five kids and they say "Fourth grade rocks!"  Because everyone's eyes are closed, students are more tuned into their sense of hearing and can really hear each person say the sentence.

After four students have been tapped, have everyone share the difference in the way that each student said the sentence.  You will probably hear difference in expression, emphasis, accent, etc.  Explain to your students that while each student was saying the same thing, they all said it in their own unique way. 

Equate this to voice in writing.  We may all write about similar experiences or ideas, but our job as writers is to put our own unique "voice" to our writing.

Isn't that cool???

I hope that these two ideas are something you can use in your classroom!  Thanks for reading!


  1. Thank you so much for sharing all these amazing writing activities with those of us who aren't as fortunate to be able to attend!!

  2. Thank you for sharing these activities. I like the lesson on voice. It really makes the point in concrete, interactive way.



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