In Readers' Workshop the students have been hard at work on learning the ways characters change. We have explored the internal and external journeys that characters make, the relationships between these journeys, and how conflict is often the impetus for this change. This culminating lesson of our character study unit has helped students develop their ability to identify the main idea of the books we read.
One of the ways we have engaged our students has been through writing advice column letters in the style of "Dear Abbey." One of our shared texts was How the Grinch Stole Christmas. We modeled this letter, written in the voice of the Grinch:
I live in a cave with my dog Max just above Whoville. The Whos drive me crazy. They are so happy and love Christmas. They spontaneously burst into Christmas carols at the drop of a hat. I hate the Whos and hope to ruin their Christmas. Do you have any advice for me on how I might ruin their positive attitudes and joyful spirits about Christmas?
Then, in the voice of Abby, we wrote this advice column in response:
Dear Mr. Grinch,
Your letter is the meanest letter I have ever received. I cannot understand why you would want to ruin Christmas for the Whos. Perhaps it is because your heart is two sizes too small. I recommend that you take a closer look at the Whos and see that they celebrate Christmas, not for the packages, boxes, or bags, but because of the love in their hearts. Maybe if you see this, your heart might grow three sizes. I hope you will return all of the stolen goods to the Whos and enjoy celebrating Christmas with them.
P.S. Be sure to try the Roast Beast!
Students then wrote their own letters from the independent reading that they are doing. The study of character, change, and conflict is helping the students in Writers' Workshop as well because it is helping them to see the difference between "diary entry" lists of events and the changes in character and lessons learn that are the hallmark of a real story.