|A note for teacher users: These lessons are posted so that you may borrow ideas from them, but our intention in providing this resource is not to give teachers a word-for-word script to follow. Please, use this lesson's big ideas but adapt everything else. And adapt it recklessly; that's how one becomes an authentic writing teacher.
Teacher Instructions & Lesson Resources :
Step one (three days before the writing task): Days before you actually share from the mentor text, tell students you want them to start thinking of "fierce wonderings." For now, just explain that a fierce wondering involves observing the way the world is and asking yourself what the world would be like if something was different.
I like to explain that there is a continuum of "fierce wonderings." Some are based on smaller observations, and the difference in the world made by the fierce wondering feels much smaller because it is written to mostly impact the person doing the wondering. I call these "personal fierce wonderings." Here are some examples of this type of wondering:
- What if my dog was actually a cat?
- What would happen if liver was my favorite food instead of hamburgers?
- What if my family won the lottery?
Then I explain that there are wonderings that are a little bigger because they would impact everyone in the class:
- What if our summer vacation actually happened over the winter?
- What if our school paid its students to do their homework?
- What if the principal punished you for celebrating Halloween?
Finally, I explain that there are wonderings that are much bigger because they would impact and affect everyone in the world?
- What if the clouds wanted to be our friends?
- What if dinosaurs and mankind shared the planet at the same time?
- What if jobs were assigned to everyone by the president?
Ask students to spend the next few days thinking up different types of fierce wonderings for the next few days. Tell them if they think of a really good and original one, they will really enjoy the next writing assignment.
If you need more information on introducing "fierce wonderings" to your students, share ideas from Ralph Fletcher's second chapter of A Writer's Notebook: Unlocking the Writer within You.
Step two (two days before the writing assignment): Show students a page from Amelia's Notebook by Marissa Moss. There is a page in the second half of the book where Amelia does some interesting wondering about fingers. Ask students to rate how big Amelia's wonderings are.
Tell students you have been thinking more about the fierce wonderings you shared the day before, and that you really like this one particular one:
- What if the clouds wanted to be our friends?
Tell them you're planning on developing this into a piece of writing because you like it so much. Ask students their opinion on the following question: "What type of writing do you think I should write based on my fierce wondering? A story? A poem? A song? A tall tale? An essay about clouds? A friendly letter?" Listen to students' opinions, then tell them you still want to think about it a bit more.
Redirect students' attention to the page in Amelia's Notebook about fingers. Ask the same question, putting the writing responsibility into Amelia's hands (no pun intended). "What type of writing do you think Amelia should write based on her fierce wondering? A story? A poem? A song? A tall tale? An essay about fingers? A friendly letter?" Listen to students' opinions again.
Step three (one day before the writing assignment): Tell students they're not going to believe it, but you finally got to the end of your personal reading of Amelia's Notebook (wink, wink), and you had no idea that Amelia had had almost the same fierce wondering about clouds that you'd had. In fact, the story she finally writes for the book's Author's Faire is about a girl who keeps a cloud as her personal pet. Share the story with them from the mentor text; it's on almost the last page of the notebook.
Point out how fierce wonderings can inspire some pretty original ideas and writing about those ideas.
In honor of that idea, have students open their Writers Notebooks and "reserve" one of its pages to the idea of "fierce wonderings." You might even have them write "My Fierce Wonderings" in the space at the top of the page.
Invite the class to share any fierce wonderings out loud that they've thought of based on classroom discussions from the past two days. As each is shared, ask, "How big is that wondering? Is it more of a personal fierce wondering or a global fierce wondering?" Have students discuss, and encourage both types from your students.
Write 5-10 favorite fierce wonderings on a classroom poster. They can be framed in either way:
- "What if _________________________________________."
- "I wonder what would happen if ______________________________."
Tell students they may borrow three or four of the class wonderings to write neatly on their page in their writers notebook, but they must put (at least) three or four others down that are original and not on the class poster.
As you walk around while they work, show them the finger page from Amelia's Notebook. Challenge them to leave space for drawings later on, like Amelia does. Ask them, "How big is that wondering?" and "What type of writing would you do about that wondering?"
Show them your own model and/or my teacher model, which I have included (at left) with this lesson as my attempt to inspire you to make your own, but I will be understanding if you want to use mine as yours. If you are teaching your students to use Mr. Stick in notebooks to serve as a journal and notebook mascot, it can become fun to make a teacher model. Your kids can gain real inspiration from having proof that you had fun as you created your own notebook page; I believe kids can have fun while learning as long as the teacher is modeling what smart and fun looks like at all times. Click here for a really large version of my notebook page, which allows you to really zoom in on details or print on a poster, if you have that ability.
Students who don't end up with six or more fierce wonderings that they like on their page should be told they have one more night to think about it. Let them write new one downs when they come in the next day.
Encourage students to fit as many fierce wonderings as they can on their page in their notebook. If some students run out of room, allow them to create more pages with "fierce wonderings" on them.
Step four (the day of the writing assignment): Optional step, but you might prime their "fierce wondering" pumps one last time by reading from the picture book What If... by Regina J. Williams.
At the end of reading, challenge students to think of any new original fierce wonderings they've thought of and add them to their page(s) in the notebooks.
Tell students the purpose in setting up this page in their writers notebooks was to give them a place where--if they have nothing new to write about--they can always visit for ideas. The page can always be independently added to later on.
Today, students are going to look over their fierce wonderings and decide if one of them should be taken through the writing process for possible inclusion in the students' writing portfolio or folder.
You might re-read Amelia's cloud story to them so they can hear once more how a fierce wondering inspired an original piece of student writing.