As part of this end of year culminating unit, the students have to write a narrative using the Calkins checklist (see her program for the Narrative Checklist). Calkins' program asks the students to write a personal narrative, but I encouraged the students to use everything they learned about personal narratives to write a fictional narrative that develops off of their game. They are able to use the characters, the plot, the setting, etc. to help them write a companion narrative.
At first some of the students thought they had to write a story of how their game would play out and then became frustrated when the ending to their story would not be the same as the game. Lucky for them, I had decided to follow in the steps of Calkins by modeling how to write a companion story.
Over the weekend, I had decided to work alongside the students to make my own game and go through the creation process with them, so that they had a model for the process and not just a Mentor Game.
In my first lesson, I shared my game with my students. My Mentor Game is Dragon Slayer, because I love the press-your-luck feel of the game. I had the idea to make a Bakery Competition game out of it. I won't go into my games details here, but I have changed the game to be something of it's own entity. I'm really quite excited about it.
I explained the game to my students the same way they had to pitch their game to my husband. I even showed them the feedback I wrote down from my meeting with him. Then I shared with them the story I was writing (still in the process of writing). This way they could see what was expected of them from a story and had a frame of reference for how to go about achieving their task.
Here is a sample of my own story:
The kitchen was sweltering and the sweat was dripping in large drops off of Francoise's forehead. He had never felt such intense pressure before, driving him forward, pushing through the intensity of the competition. Keep going! he told himself. You’ve got this!
A glance around the kitchen reveals four other bakers mixing and kneading and scrambling to pound dough into something fabulous. It was only task one of the Bakery Masters, but it felt like an already bloodied battlefield. Above each of their heads hung a task list of what they needed to complete for task one. Francoise, while stressed, knew that he had task one in the bag. He had to make two batches of chocolate chip cookies and 2 dozen double chocolate cupcakes. Despite his stress, he knew he could complete the additional bonus task of 1 batch of macadamia cookies and 2 dozen white chocolate cupcakes.
A quick check of the clock sent Francoise into overdrive as he finished up his cookies and got them into the oven. As he swung around to extract his cupcakes from the ovens, he smacked right into Berthe, his arch-rival. Berthe was a large, French woman of about 40 years. Her thick brown hair was wrapped up in a tight bun, covered with her pristine, white bakers cap. Her lips pinched together and she scowled at him as she shoved him off with her hip, her hands full of three cupcake trays.
“Watch it, Francoise! You’ll live to rue the day you mess with me!” She rushed back to her station, stomping haughtily while she went. You could see the other bakers try to become one with their baking stations, squeezing themselves as flat as possible against the counter as Berthe stormed by.
With a deep breath, Francoise steadied himself and hustled back to his station. He set the cupcakes aside to cool and started working on the frosting that would go with them, ever keeping an eye on the clock. Too late did it dawn on him that he should have set a timer for the cookies so they wouldn’t burn. As his anxiety ramped up, he wasn’t paying close attention to his frostings and they were starting to split. Not enough milk, then not enough powdered sugar, and as he dusted himself with an explosion of white snow, he started to smell the worst smell that could ever. . .
Now, the students have to follow demonstrate an internal and external story, as well as develop their characters, provide tension, have a concrete ending (no Cliffhangers. . . this isn't Fortune & Glory), and have their main character learn a lesson or hint at a message. For example, in my story at the very beginning my character's internal dialogue hints at the greater lesson he'll be learning by the end of the story. This is all part of the Calkins' curriculum and I provided students with reminder tools to write their stories, since we last dealt with Narratives at the beginning of November. I also have the reference charts hanging in the classroom to inspire.
The students spent the rest of the week writing, editing, revising, and rethinking their projects. Their stories need to be finished and then next week they move on to creating their Instructional Booklet, which is call on their Informative Writing skills. A template is in the works to help guide them through the process so that when we get into the lab the following week, it's all about putting their drafts into electronic format.
Funny Story: Since this is a cumulative unit, my co-teachers and I have backed off a bit on giving detailed feedback and one-on-one critiques. We just do walk-arounds. It's that idea of a flipped classroom, but we don't have digital lectures and things like that. Plus, they have a partner they're working with, so they can work together to give each other feedback. On Friday, my students started to ask me to read the ending to their stories! I had to keep telling them no, because they're going to spoil my reading of your story! It became a whole class joke and I wrote a note on the board saying "I will not read the ending of your narrative. . ." and while I was writing it someone was asking if I would read the middle and so I wrote ". . . or any other part of your narrative." We were goofing around, but it was pretty hilarious and keep them excited. I told them to wow me for while I'm reading it to grade. Furthermore, I encouraged them to use their tools and really show me all they've learned by making a great story with a story with uber impact.
Again, for scoring purposes, I am still using the Calkins Narrative and Informative rubrics. The Informative rubric will be tweaked, though, to account for the writing-to-task standard and to make sure it covers the expectations of the project.