Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Haunted House Writing...We are Obsessed! {Part 1}

We are knee-deep into our drafts and so I wanted to get this little ol' blog post together...finally!  I love this time of year in my classroom!  Even though I am a major Christmas time fan, there is just something about celebrating all things October in 5th grade.  At this grade level I can still get away with the scare factor without kids thinking it's cheesy.  Not only do I love students become obsessed too!

One of the best parts of October though, is when I get to break out and introduce my Haunted House Expressive (Narrative) Writing Unit.  This was one of the first things I put together for Teachers Pay Teachers and it's for sale HERE.

Sure, I'm selling a product I've made and have used in my classroom for the last 6 years...but I really love sharing it here because students fall in love with it.  Year after year, I have seen a HUGE change in my students' voracity and enthusiasm with writing because they suddenly realize they can enjoy writing rather than deal with it.  So, I guess you could say this project is at the heart of why I enjoy this time of the year so much!  The best part is, it covers several of the Common Core Writing standards for narratives in grades 3-6.  Score!!

I like to introduce this assignment to my students in the most persuasive way possible...and that is by using a Promethean flipchart I found on Promethean Planet many years ago (I can't remember the source at all, so hopefully someone knows who I can thank).  This flipchart has great sound effects and some imagery that gets my students excited and feeling inspired.  It really does help it take off!

I feel like I'm going to be saying, "I just love it when...," in this blog post a ton!  But it's because I constantly look up or out at my class and get all giddy because of how much I see them wanting to delve in to something I provide for them.  Sooooooo...when I start going through the flipchart, it makes my heart skip a beat as I see smiles come across their face and I can almost see the wheels turning in their heads.  Sometimes I have to tell them to pump on the brakes because they want to start writing before I'm even done introducing the rest of the unit to them.  Around this time, I also tell them their audience will be 8th graders (this is the benefit of working at a K-8 school).  They get super nervous until I tell them about how much the 8th graders the year before truly enjoyed my previous class' writing pieces.

I've since inserted my own pages into the old flipchart I downloaded years and years ago so that it includes the paragraph plans you can grab up in the TPT product.

In fact, here is the paragraph (5-senses plan) I modeled in front of my class this year...

I should really preface this by saying I am perfectly open to my students getting gross and graphic (at a 5th grade level) as long as they stay within age-appropriate parameters.  The thing is, whether I like it or not, my students (in an at-risk urban area of Phoenix) watch rated R scary movies constantly. I've tried in my earlier years of teaching to put a stop to it, but it happens at home, and there's just nothing I can do to stop it.  So, because they have that background and it is just part of their life, I allow them to take it and run with it.  And...I have never had a student overstep boundaries because they know there are ground rules.  It is completely up to you, your student population, and your comfortability level.  For those who do not want to go scary, I let them know it is perfectly fine and just as much fun to write a funny story or even a combo of funny and scary.  I've had several kids write some hilarious haunted house stories that have made me laugh out loud.

Once we set everything up and I have modeled a paragraph plan or two, my students go for it.  By go for it...I mean GO FOR IT!  They are chomping at the bit and bubbling over with excitement to get to writing for the 8th graders.

I can't stop there though...I have to play Halloween music via my Spotify album I've been adding to the last 3 years.  I'm including it below so you can grab it up and use it in your classroom as well. My kids get all kinds of giddy when they hear the scary sound songs since it gives them inspiration for their 5-senses plans.  The looks on their faces when they hear their favorite scary movie song come on always cracks me up too (think Nightmare on Elm Street or Halloween).  Let me know if you decide to use it...I'd love to find out it's being played across classrooms.  :-)


My students usually need up to 2 days to work on their five paragraphs/plans.  This year, I noticed more of my students really wanted to utilize the space to sketch a visual in order to help them form those ideas.  Talk about ownership!   

This year, I have two students whose families do not celebrate Halloween, so they are writing mysteries that take place inside of a house instead.  I really want to put together an extension to add to the original I'll work on that soon.  I don't want any kids to feel left out. Definitely keep an eye out for that!

What do you think?  I hope this blog post helps those who have grabbed up my little unit.  Part 2 coming up tomorrow...stay tuned!