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Thursday, 17 January 2013

Authentic Purpose for Writing

Front CoverBefore Christmas, I introduced my students to Chris Van Allsburg's picture book: The Mysteries of Harris Burdick.  I like this book because the illustrations are so intriguing.  If you haven't already heard of "Harris Burdick", the introduction explains that years ago, a writer named Harris Burdick brought illustrations with captions to a book publisher named Peter Wenders.  Mr. Wenders was very impressed with the illustrations, so he asked Mr. Burdick to bring him the stories that went with the illustrations.  Mr. Burdick promised to return, but he was never heard from again.

Teachers have been using the illustrations to inspire budding authors.  My students loved the illustrations and couldn't wait to write their stories.  Before they did though, I went on-line and found many student samples, thanks to thoughtful teachers who posted their students' work, to read with my students.  I used these samples as exemplars.

After reading several of the student samples on-line, we created an anchor chart for Narratives.  We then co-created Success Criteria for what should be included in a good narrative.  After completing a graphic organiser, the students were chomping at the bit to get on with their stories.  But I wasn't ready to let them write yet... I had one last activity up my sleeve.

I found The Chronicles of Harris Burdick on-line.  In it, fourteen famous authors "tell the tales" of Harris Burdick's illustrations.  I used some of these tales as mentor texts. 

I liked the way teachers were posting these stories on-line.  When we read them, the first thing my students asked was, "Can we post our stories?!?"  They reminded me how important it is to have an authentic audience for our writing.

We learned so much writing these stories.  We learned about using quotation marks, voice, sentence fluency and word choice!

So please, check out our Harris Burdick Wiki and read our growing collection of stories!  (The really long ones are not posted yet!)

I just found this Mysteries of Harris Burdick website!  Students can learn more about the "mystery man" and send in their stories to  Mr. Chris Van Allsburg.  I can't wait to tell  my students!

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