We recently had two snow days in our district. Since snow comes and goes pretty quickly in the Seattle area, I love the time we have to get out and play. Entire neighborhoods spill into local parks and school playgrounds to g0 sledding, build snowmen, fortify snow forts, and just run around. The smiles, laughter, and overall general feeling of happiness is a welcome sight during the doldrums of gray skies in winter.
My daughter and I worked tirelessly to build a snow fort on the football field of the neighboring school. We had a great time determining the height, depth, and interior finishes expected by a fourth-grader. It was a moment cemented in my mind, one that will stick for a long time.
The activity sparked my imagination for establishing a writing space in the classroom. Building, fortifying, and elaborating the writing process is something all young writers need to experience to develop their skills.
For this activity, various components of the writing process are hung around the classroom. A prompt (or multiple prompts) are given to students to focus on. Working in small groups, one member of the group retrieves a writing component and brings it to the group work on. Group members complete the task and attach their finished task to a building block (snow cube). A second group member retrieves another component, the group works on the task, and then add to their snow cubes. As the group works, they determine the organization of their snow walls.
After a set amount of time, a signal is given and students work on the elaboration of their writing. Once this task has been completed the snow forts represent a specific mode of writing within a paragraph, poem, essay, etc. Groups share their responses by walking around and observing the structures.
Several discussion ideas may follow:
- What are similarities between each of the writing samples?
- How did groups extend their writing?
- What are key organizational concepts we need to remember when writing _____?
- What are the foundation pieces of this writing style?
The writing tasks may include:
- Sentence starters/types (topic sentence, textual evidence, analysis, concluding sentences)
- Essay structure (introduction paragraph, body paragraphs, concluding paragraphs)
- Simple sentences to extend
This activity can be modified in beyond the snow fort concept. It has can be adapted to include the snowball fight activity explained in an earlier post.