During the Organization Module in the Fall 07 online 6-Traits class, we discussed the importance of leads, titles. One of the best ways to build traits concepts is with examples from great books.
Jeanette, a primary teacher from Alaska posted the following.
On page 8 of Creating Young Writers (Spandel, 2004) it states "A good lead (beginning) is vital." On page 9, Spandel goes on to say, "Skilled writers know that the way you wrap up a piece of writing determines the final impression you make on a reader and often determines whether the piece as a whole has believability." I decided to look at the recommended books for organization on 180 and see how the authors decided to begin and end their stories. If you haven't read some of the recommended books I really suggest you do. They are great. After reading some of them I understood better what makes a great beginning and end. And middle, too.
Brown, Margaret Wise. 1949. The important book. New York: Harper Trophy.
Every year in the halls of the school I taught at there would be "The Most Important Thing" poem display. I always read the poems written by the students, but I never read the book until yesterday. The book is a collection of poems that begin and end with the same statement, "The important thing about a _________ is _________________."
Fleming, Denise. (1997). Time to sleep. New York. Henry Holt and Company.
The story begins with "Bear sniffed once. She sniffed twice. "I smell winter in the air," said bear." What a great statement. I can't wait to ask my students what winter smells like. I'm sure the answers I get from my students in Alaska will be way different than the answers from students in Florida. The ending reminded my of the old tv series The Waltons with all the animals saying "good night" to each other.
French, Vivian. (2003) Growing Frogs. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Press.
What a lovely book! The first sentence is definitely an eye catcher, "Once, when I was little, my mom read me a story about a frog that grew bigger, and bigger and bigger. The story ends with a similar sentence, "I like having frogs jumping around getting bigger, and bigger and bigger!"
St. George, Judith. (2002). So you want to be an inventor? New York: Philomel Books.
This story begins with a question. The story goes on to tell about different people and what they invented. The story is both entertaining and educational.
Wallace, Karen. (1993) Think of an eel. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Press.
The story begins with "Think of an eel. He swims like a fish. He slides like a snake." I like the way the author engages the reader with the first sentence.
After reading these books I decided I am definitely going to use them in my classroom. The suggested writing activities are very good.
I am now very aware of the beginning and ending of a story. I know organization is all about the middle too. But what really struck was how you can engage a reader with just one or two lines. Here are a few more books that I particularly liked the opening sentence.
Knowlton, Laurie. (2006). A young man's dance. Pennsylvania: Boyd Mills Press.
This book begins with "Grandma Ronnie isn't home anymore." That is the only sentence on the page. The next page goes on to say, "There's no smell of baked cookies, no music jitterbugging through the rooms. " The story is about a young boy that is having a difficult time adjusting to his grandmother living in a nursing home. My eyes were watering by the time I finished this book – guess that's a sign of good Voice.
Brown, Margaret Wise. (1938). On Christmas Eve. Harper Collins.
How someone would be able to put down a book and not finish it when it begins, " It was the middle of the night. And night of all nights it was Christmas." is beyond me.
Sendak, Marice. (1970) In the night kitchen. USA: Harper and Row.
Okay. This was one of my favorite books when I was little. It begins, "Did you ever her of Mickey, how he heard a racket in the night and shouted QUIET DOWN THERE!"