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Monday, August 18, 2014

Secret Knowledge of Grown-Ups....Twist Your Classroom Rules!


Those first few weeks of school are always so chaotic for me with the paperwork, county assessments, and STUFF!  What I want to do more than any of those things is really give the kids a view to how our classroom will work for the year.  Many years ago, a teacher friend gave me the book, "The Secret Knowledge of Grown-Ups," by David Wisniewski.  I read it, laughed hysterically, and filed it in my brain under "someday."  Wisniewski introduces an ordinary rule like "eat your vegetables" and creates an outlandish "truth" behind the rule, with the understanding that grown-ups have a responsibility to keep all of these truths guarded from children (apparently broccoli used to resemble a dinosaur and was a meat eater?!). 

This book is a dream as far as mentor texts go.  Wisniewski's word choice and voice are second to none and, incidentally, he won the Newbery Award in 1997 as well!  So not only are there a ton of opportunities for modeled writing lessons, but his use of illustrations and text features to add meaning to the text are superior.  The stories are short- usually about 2-3 pages with illustrations- just right for a quick read aloud, mini lesson, and independent time.  BONUS!!! There's a "Second File" I later discovered that helps extend our read aloud and analysis time!

After routinely introducing the classroom rules for the umpteenth time, it occurred to me that this book would make a fabulous link to this otherwise dull task.  I started by reading just one rule to the students, and they were hooked!  It snowballed from there.  Each day we read a new rule, examined his stories for structure and technique, and completed a small part of the writing process.   Some students used our classroom rules as inspiration, and others chose to use rules from their house.  In three weeks, we had completed the writing process, talked in depth about voice and word choice, initiated conferencing structures, practiced cooperative learning structures, and explored multiple reading concepts including summarizing, plot, and text features.  This was a fabulous way to start the year as it enabled us to address so much of the curriculum on a daily basis, and the kids looked so forward to working on it each day (as did I!). 

We ended up with a display of file folders that mimicked the author's cover illustration and followed his introduction for each story.  They were PERFECT for parent night!  I think this would also be a good way to end the year during that last month when the kids need a little extra "fun" in their days.  This has become my "go to" lesson now!

I have a little freebie that will get you started with the story if you are interested.  Included is the plan we created together, draft papers, a scoring rubric, and a feedback form.  The feedback form was really fun!  The first time we used it on parent night and parents and family left positive notes for their stories.  We left them on the desks, and the next morning, I had donuts for the kids.  While they munched away, they circulated and read each others' stories, leaving positive and specific notes.  This was a nice finish and the kids enjoyed reading their feedback. 




Have a super start of the school year, and keep "The Truth" from themmmmmm.  I hope you enjoy this book as much as we have!

Click the image for your freebie!