Writing Great Beginnings

What are some ways to beef up your beginnings?

  • Add dialogue
  • Start with action
  • Explore the character’s thoughts
  • Use Onomatopoeia
  • Start with something shocking
  • Lively description that paints a vivid picture
  • Start with a quote

Take, for instance, this boring introduction:

It was a day at the end of June. My mom, dad, brother, and I were at our camp on Rangeley Lake. We arrived the night before at 10:00, so it was dark when we got there and unpacked. We went straight to bed. The next morning, when I was eating breakfast, my dad started yelling for me from down at the dock at the top of his lungs. He said there was a car in the lake.

 

Now, take a look at these great openings.

I gulped my milk, pushed away from the table, and bolted out of the kitchen, slamming the broken screen door behind me. I ran down to our dock as fast as my legs could carry me. My feet pounded on the old wood, hurrying me toward my dad’s voice. “Scott!” he bellowed again.

“Coming, Dad!” I gasped. I couldn’t see him yet—just the sails of the boats that had already put out into the lake for the day.

 

OR

“Scott! Get down here on the double!” Dad bellowed. His voice sounded far away.

“Dad?” I hollered. “Where are you?” I squinted through the screen door but couldn’t see him.

“I’m down on the dock. MOVE IT. You’re not going to believe this,” he replied.

 

OR

I couldn’t imagine why my father was hollering for me at 7:00 in the morning. I thought fast about what I might have done to get him so riled. Had he found out about the way I talked to my mother the night before, when we got to camp and she asked me to help unpack the car? Did he discover the fishing reel I broke last week? Before I could consider a third possibility, Dad’s voice shattered my thoughts.

“Scott! Move it! You’re not going to believe this!”

 

OR

Squish thunk, squish thunk, went out boots as we trudged down the back road of the ranch. There had been a storm the night before and as my brother, sister, and I went for a walk, we were enjoying the crisp spring air and the sunshine putting its warming hands on our backs. As we approached the corral, we noticed a mud puddle, a particularly marvelous mud puddle where the rain had mixed with water, mud, and cow dung that had been there before the storm. Little did I know that I was about to be involved in the mud fight of a lifetime.

 

OR

They say Maniac Magee was born in a dump. They say his stomach was a cereal box and his heart a sofa spring.

They say he kept an eight-inch cockroach on a leash and that rats stood guard over him while he slept.

They say if you knew he was coming and you sprinkled salt on the ground and he ran over it, within two or three blocks, he would be as slow as everybody else.

They say…

 

OR

Scarcely a breath of wind disturbed the stillness of the day, and the long rows of cabbages were bright green in the sunlight. Large white clouds drifted slowly across the deep blue sky. Now and then they obscured the sun and caused a chill on the backs of the prisoners who had to work all day long in the cabbage field.

 

Weekly Update 9.17

To Do:

1. Please join our class on Prodigy. We have weekly contests and pick a Prodigy winner! 🙂 Our class code is B49141.

2. Join our class on BLOOMZ! Our code is 488QSN. This is our primary method of communication and is the easiest way to get a hold of me! Plus, you can coordinate playdates on there as well! 🙂Our room parent, Mrs. Randazzo, will utilize it to coordinate events and sign-ups.

2. Sign behavior sheet nightly. No highlights is a GOOD thing! We have a monthly 5th grade behavior celebration. In order to attend, students must not have more than a certain number of highlighted days. The MAXIMUM number of highlighted days for September is four. Five or more highlighted days means a student will complete unfinished work in study hall. For behavior celebrations, students allowed to bring a favorite snack (no Takis) AND a juice/Gatorade/Soda Can drink.

3. Bring Nikki folders back daily.

4. Guided Reading Homework due Thursdays (two highest groups) and Fridays (for other groups). Starting October, journals will be due every two weeks (October 11-12, October 25-26). That will be for six entries each check.

Important Dates:

Target Days are Tuesdays for my Target babies. 🙂 These are review/reinforcement days for the rest of my class. 🙂

Behavior Celebration: September 21st

PBIS Pep Rally: September 21st

Media Center: scheduled for the 21st, but that will probably change, pending on their schedule

 

Content:

Monday-Wednesday (IOWA testing)

Math: dividing decimals by whole numbers and decimals (all week)

Writing: writing and revising a strong, descriptive opening; drafting (Tuesday-Wednesday), writing and revising a strong conclusion that ties up loose ends and/or has a lesson learned; publishing 2nd/3rd writing pieces

Social Studies: Supply and Demand during the turn of the century, African American Cowboys, Cattle Drives, In-class project)

Reading: summarizing, making connections, inferences

Language Arts: last week of subject/predicate, compound/simple/complex, parts of speech

 

Assessments:

Friday

(Science quiz over Samuel Morse, Transcontinental Railroad, African American Cowboys, Cattle Drives and the two trails)

(Math quiz over dividing decimals by whole numbers and by decimals)

Math Mini-Touchstones over place value

(Mentor Sentences Language Arts Quiz- subject/predicate, verbs, complex/compound)

 

Homework:

Reading: Guided Reading response entries due Thursday (2 highest groups) and Friday (the other 3 groups)

Math: Students will have homework on Friday, IF they did not finish their math station work during the week.

Exemplary Narrative Writing Sample

Hi families! As students start completing their narrative writing pieces, I am sending them home, so that they can continue to practice. I also wanted to share some sample examples of 4s (100). Notice the detailed introduction, use of dialogue, sequence words, description, use of figurative language, etc.

Kayak Tip-Over (Sample 1)

Cold waves lap at my back.  The wind roars.  The capsized kayak bobs crazily like a runner’s short ponytail.  My arms and legs tingle with the thought of an underwater creature dragging me down into the watery depths.

“This is just like T.V.,” I think as I anticipate a shark jumping out from the water and eating us.  I shiver involuntarily.

“Help!” I cry, small-voiced.

Earlier, that day had started out like any old vacation.  The weather was warm, and there was a pleasant breeze licking at the waves in the lagoon.  My mom’s book club invited my brother, sister, mom, and me, along with two other families, to a beach house.  The house was on a tranquil lagoon with rippling water.  No one else was in the water that day.  The house had kayaks, body boards, and a paddle boat!  Perfect for us kids!  All was going well until the two boys got bored.

The boys were evidently going to go crazy if they didn’t do something soon.  They had been lying in the sun for too long, and they were swiftly accumulating girly tans.  Suddenly, Josh had a marvelous idea!  Why didn’t they let one floaty go drifting downstream and then go chasing it in the paddle boat?!  The idea was perfect.  There was only one catch: the pleasant breeze that had been blowing gently was now a gushing whirlwind of energy, and the floaty was rapidly growing smaller and smaller, with the boys close in tow.

“Tino!  Joshua!”  Madison, Ana, and I screamed and yelled, but it was to no avail.

“JOSHUA BURCH!  COME BACK HERE!”  Madison hollered.  Our mothers came up behind us.

“Looks like they’re going to need a rescue team,” Madison’s mom said.  We looked at her for a second, and then jumped into action.  Ana manned the one-person kayak while Madison and I took the two-seater. We pushed off, soldiers on a mission!

Ana reached Tino and Josh before Madison and I did.  The situation was worse than we had thought.  Tino and Josh were flailing about in the water.  In trying to reach the floaty, they had fallen out of the paddle boat.  Ana had tied the kayak and paddle boat together, hoping to give it a tow because the current was too strong to paddle the boat back.  The boys were still in the water, unable to get in the boat.  Ana, realizing her plan wasn’t working, untied the kayak.  Finally, Josh managed to get in the paddle boat, leaving Tino to fend for himself.

Meanwhile, Madison and I struggled with our kayak.  We had moved away from the others and into the middle of the lagoon.  Seeing Tino swimming towards us, we made room for him on board.  He reached us and heaved himself on.  I threw my weight on the opposite end so we wouldn’t capsize.  Madison and Tino sat with their legs dangling, resting.  I knew they shouldn’t do that, but before I could warn them, we tipped over, and we all went spilling into the lagoon!

The cold water hit me like a wall.  I surfaced, sputtering water.  I prayed to God, thanking Him that we had life jackets.  My first concern was that we had to right the kayak.  Unfortunately, this was easier said than done.  After our fifth try, the kayak reluctantly flipped over with a loud squelching sound.  I felt as if we should get a gold medal for that!  All I wanted to do was get out of there, but the lagoon wasn’t finished with us.  Our paddles had floated away!  Luckily, Ana, the hero of the day, brought the paddles to us.  Thank you, Ana!

During that time, Ophie, Josh and Madison’s mom, arrived to help.  She joined Josh on the paddle boat, relieved Tino from us, and took him to shore.  Madison and I managed to arrive at the shore safely without any more tip-overs.  Hip, hip, hooray!  I watched Ana battle her way home and thought it would have gone much differently if she hadn’t been there.  I looked back at my friends, then at the water, and I knew this wouldn’t keep us out of the water.  No way!

The whole experience helped me learn that you have to be calm in scary situations even if you aren’t calm at heart.  Things look much worse when you’re scared, so sometimes you just need to pause, take a deep breath, and I promise things will look much brighter!  My advice to kids like me would be to listen to your parents when they insist upon wearing life jackets.  Those jackets really do live up to their name.  They can save lives.  They helped save mine!

My Extreme and Deathly Fright (Sample 2)

It was a horribly hot day, and the sun was melting me.  I had pounds of butterflies in my stomach.  Every time I drew closer to my absolute doom, I thought more about whether or not I really wanted to do this.  Finally, it was time.

My sister and I climbed onto the ripped-up, red seat and pulled down the hot, sweaty handle that would soon be protecting us in the car that would carry us through the scorching, sickening, insane, storming roller coaster ride called Roar, which you should eternally never ride.

I was like a little innocent bug about to be face-to-face with one giant and one big, black bear.  As soon as the ride started, we had enormous, nervous smiles on our faces and shaking Chihuahua bodies.  The ride started out leisurely, but when we made the first turn, all I could see was a blurred Six Flags, my sister, and my babysitter.  I heard screaming teenagers and clapping hands at animal shows.  I saw all the grand roller coasters, splashing water, and believe it or not, I saw the drop we were about to take and all the twists and turns that would make us feel sick.  I smelled the smelly smell of something smelly that I think was gross corn dogs, ridiculously stinky fish, and perspiring people.  I felt my sister’s sweaty hand and the ripped-up red seat that scratched my legs.  I also tasted my sandwich from earlier in the day and wondered how this could become any worse.

I soon found out how because the roller coaster was going up, up, up the roller coaster hill, so I grabbed hands with my sister and then, “AAAAAHHHHHHHHH! Get me off of here!” we both screamed in unison.

“It’s okay.  Relax,” counseled my babysitter, Alisa.  However, it was far from okay.  It was the end of my life.  I just knew there wasn’t going to be any tomorrow for me.  I was going to be dead.

Then all of a sudden, I heard the most deathly sound anybody could ever hear in her whole, entire life:  the sound of roller coaster tracks.  We went up, down, around, and almost upside down!  At this point, I felt sick.  I had a horrible stomachache, and my head was spinning at what was what, and I felt weak, weak as if I had no bones in my body at all.  I call that bum bones.  Although I didn’t know what to do, there was one alternative left to me since I had a brain—to think.  So I thought while I was breathing heavily, twisting and turning and screaming, and I just decided to put my head down and try to let the rocking created by the giant and the big, black bear soothe me, but that was the impossibility of the century because to think and to try to relax on a roller coaster…let me tell you now, it’s impossible!

As soon as we passed through another couple of twists and turns, it was like the ride would never end, and I would have to be on this torturous roller coaster the rest of my life.  I would have to sleep on the roller coaster, eat on the roller coaster, and even do my business on a roller coaster.  However, what scared me the most was that I would never see my family again, but then I remembered my thought from earlier.  I was going to be dead, as dead as anyone could ever be.

“Please, have only one more rumble, rumble,” I begged silently.  “Please have only one more ‘big, fantastic turn.’  Please have only one more anything,” I thought because nobody wants to be as dead as anybody could ever be.  Luckily, there was only one more rumble, rumble.  Luckily, there was only one more “big, fantastic turn,” but there was not only one more of anything because we did a final roller coaster hill drop and then, “AAAAAHHHHHHHHH! Get me off of here!” we both screamed again.

“It’s okay.  Relax,” said my babysitter, and luckily, this time it was okay.  We were right back where we had started, the place where we first had our big, nervous smiles on our faces.  We were where I learned that I can overcome my fears and I have the guts to do anything.  I learned that anybody can do anything, and that when people tell you that you can do something, they are right.  You can.

 

 

Weekly Update 9.10

To Do:

1. Please join our class on Prodigy. We have weekly contests and pick a Prodigy winner! 🙂 Our class code is B49141.

2. Join our class on BLOOMZ! Our code is 488QSN. This is our primary method of communication and is the easiest way to get a hold of me! Plus, you can coordinate playdates on there as well! 🙂 Our room parent, Mrs. Randazzo, will utilize it to coordinate events and sign-ups.

2. Sign behavior sheet nightly. No highlights is a GOOD thing! We have a monthly 5th grade behavior celebration. In order to attend, students must not have more than a certain number of highlighted days. The MAXIMUM number of highlighted days for September is four. Five or more highlighted days means a student will complete unfinished work in study hall. For behavior celebrations, students allowed to bring a favorite snack (no Takis) AND a juice/Gatorade/Soda Can drink.

3. Bring agendas and Nikki folders back daily.

4. Guided Reading Homework due Thursdays (two highest groups) and Fridays (for other groups).

 

Important Dates:

Target Days are Tuesdays for my Target babies. 🙂

Behavior Celebration: September 21st

PBIS Pep Rally: September 21st

Media Center: scheduled for the 21st, but that will probably change, pending on their schedule

 

Content:

Reading- We are continuing our study of plot, theme, main idea, and summarizing. Majority of lessons happen in small groups.

*reading groups are ongoing and guided reading responses are due Thursdays (2 higher groups) and Fridays for the rest of the groups.*

Math- We are multiplying and dividing decimals (divisor and dividend).

Writing- Students are continuing the narrative writing unit using Lucy Calkin’s as a guide. All students are now working on their second narrative writing piece.

Science/Social Studies: We are moving back into Social Studies and the Cattle Drives.

Weekly Update Sept 4

To Do:

1. Please join our class on Prodigy. We have weekly contests and pick a Prodigy winner! 🙂 Our class code is B49141.

2. Join our class on BLOOMZ! Our code is 488QSN.

2. Sign behavior sheet nightly.

3. Bring agendas and Nikki folders back daily.

4. Guided Reading Homework due Thursdays and Fridays.

Important Dates:

Target Days are Tuesdays for my Target babies. 🙂

 

Labor Day  Closed

 

Content:

Reading- We are starting Esperanza Rising and will continue studying plot,  theme, and summarizing.

*reading groups are ongoing and guided reading responses are due Thursdays (2 higher groups) and Fridays for the rest of the groups.

Math- We are finishing up our study of decimals (Adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing).

Writing- Students are continuing the narrative writing unit using Lucy Calkin’s as a guide. All students are now working on their second narrative writing piece.

Science/Social Studies: Stay Tuned!

Weekly Update 8.27

To Do:

1. Please join our class on Prodigy. We have weekly contests and pick a Prodigy winner! 🙂 Our class code is B49141.

2. Join our class on BLOOMZ! Our code is 488QSN.

2. Sign behavior sheet nightly.

3. Bring agendas and Nikki folders back daily.

4. Return any completed forms and T-shirt monies.

Important Dates:

Target Days are Tuesdays for my Target babies. 🙂

Aug 29 EARLY RELEASE (please make sure to send any transportation changes on notes any day)

Aug 31 Pitner Spirit Night at Escalade

Labor Day  Closed

 

Content:

Reading- We are continuing our study of The Well and exploring theme and summarizing.

*reading groups start this week and guided reading journals start this week.

Math- We are exploring decimals, (comparing decimals, ordering, and rounding decimals to the hundredths place).

Writing- Students are continuing the narrative writing unit using Lucy Calkin’s as a guide. Students are working on  publishing their first piece of narrative writing.

Science/Social Studies: We will spend the week constructive and destructive forces in Science and our role in them.

Don’t forget that guided reading responses are due Friday!

8.20 Update

To Do:

1. Please join our class on Prodigy. We have weekly contests and pick a Prodigy winner! 🙂 Our class code is B49141.

2. Sign behavior sheet nightly.

3. Bring agendas and Nikki folders back daily.

4. Return any completed forms and T-shirt monies.

Important Dates:

Target Days are Tuesdays for my Target babies. 🙂

August 21st  Library Orientation (Students will bring home a form that must be signed before they can start checking out books.)

August 21st: Picture Day 10:58

August 24th, 10:15-10:30- our library check-out day

Content:

Reading- We are beginning our novel study on The WellIt will last the rest of this week. Our genre study starts this week on Narrative stories.

Math- We are exploring decimals, values of decimal places, expanded form with powers of 10,  comparing decimals, and rounding decimals. All decimals studied will go to the thousandths place value. We are reviewing multiplication skills and place value skills reviewed last week.

Writing- Students are continuing the narrative writing unit using Lucy Calkin’s as a guide. Students are working on  increasing their writing stamina and coming up with “seeds” for writing.

Science/Social Studies: We will spend the week constructive and destructive forces in Science.