A Writing Kind of Day

Cross-posted from Kim’s Blog: www.thinkingthroughmylens.wordpress.com

Today was a writing kind of day.

On Friday we began celebrating the National Day on Writing with a field trip and a puzzle piece that I wrote about here.

But today was the cherry on top of the writing sundae.

Our morning began with a version of a chalk talk. My teaching partner taped white butcher paper to the wall ball court and posted a few questions for students at our school to respond to: How do you use writing to connect? Where do you like to write? and Who are your favorite authors or what are you favorite books?

With markers in hand, our students started writing.

They wrote about places they love to write: writing on couches, on the beach, and in libraries. They love Shel Silverstein, Beverly Cleary, Roald Dahl, and J.K. Rowling. They write letters, texts, emails, books, notes and more.

They wrote and wrote and wrote. And when they weren’t writing, they were reading the writing of their classmates on the wall.

Our school-wide puzzle was also on display in the wall ball court today.


And students enjoyed reading what other classes at our school wrote for their puzzle piece (and finding their own and reading it again!).


And then we went on with our regular classroom activities…and more writing! Our students have been drafting a just-for-fun piece of writing about an animal of their choice. And they were applying what they have been learning about using figurative language (similes), specific and interesting verbs, and sensory imagery (sound, movement) to write a “moment” featuring their animal. Today they took some time to give their writing a “check up” (you know like the doctor does to make sure you are healthy). They reread their writing and looked for the features mentioned above…and then went back to their writing to make it even better.

And the best part of the day was that these writers enjoyed writing, sharing writing about their writing on Twitter, and even revising their writing…because they are writers. And today was all about writing.

Myths and Legends

(a mentor text genre study)

Long before there were books in print, people told stories to explain natural phenomena. These tales have become known as myths and legends. To start our unit on archeology and learning about the past to better understand the present, our class studied myths and legends. We focused mostly on Native American tales, since native people lived here in southern California long before we did (though we did also read some African myths). It’s interesting to note that some cultures around the world still use storytelling as a way to pass on ideas without books, newspapers, the internet…

Since nature is often at the heart of myth and legends, we started the unit by making nature masks. We’re lucky to have a campus filled with a variety of beautiful trees, which shed their gifts for us to use: pine needles, seeds, leaves, flowers, and more… After making our own nature-item masks, we studied how and why various cultures use masks to pray, celebrate, give thanks… and each child wrote their own story about the nature mask they created.


Next, we read and studied a variety of literature (mentor text) and the class as a whole discovered that there are certain elements present in myths and legends (not every myth and legend has all elements, but all have some of the elements):

  • someone/something has a need and/or problem
  • events and characters are based on real life
  • usually starts with “Long ago…”, “In the time of…”, etc.
  • there’s usually a leader/ruler
  • includes surrealism or elements of magic
  • action is taken to solve the problem
  • a “why?” gets answered

Some of the stories we studied as mentor text include:

The Whale in the Sky by Anne Siberell is a retelling of an authentic legend of the Northwest Indians tells how Thunderbird saves the salmon from Whale.

The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush retold by Tomie dePaola is a Native American Indian inspired story about how the Indian Paintbrush flower (native to Texas) came to bloom in profusion.

Why the Sun and the Moon Live in the Sky by Elphinstone Dayrell is an African tale that explains just what you’d suspect from the title: how the sun and the moon came to exist in the sky.

Why the Tides Ebb and Flow by Joan Chase Bowden explains in a mysterious and entertaining story why tides ebb and flow.

After studying a variety of mentor text, noticing what they have in common, and what type of storytelling language they use, we wrote a myth as a class about how rainbows came to be. You may remember the barely-rainy morning in late September when we were graced with a beautiful rainbow––this gift of nature was the perfect inspiration for our own legend. This class myth is a collaborative effort of grades one, two and three, with special editing and final touches by Book Clubs. Enjoy!

The Legend of the Rainbow

by the Cardiff School MAC Class

Long ago in a small Indian village, the tribe was not happy because there was no rainfall. The people argued and fought with each other, and they forgot to worship the Spirits. So, the Spirits became angry and sent a hot wind that was coming from what they believed to be the Bad Direction, and lots of things were going wrong…

Every day was horribly hot, the wind blew, and the plants were dying because the roots couldn’t find water. It was hot and the people were tired, and everyone got angrier. The Great Sky Ruler noticed what was happening…

 A small boy named Little Sunrise noticed that everyone was unhappy, so he went up to the mountain to plead with The Great Sky Ruler. The little boy said, “Oh Great Sky Ruler, my people are starving. They’re angry, they’re fighting, and they want food. Please help us!”

The Great Sky Ruler replied, “I’d be happy to help, but the people have to stop arguing, apologize to one another, and work together. And please remember to worship the Spirits as well…”

And then Little Sunrise came down the mountain and told his mom, Courageous Wolf, what the Great Sky Ruler had said. “Oh, we should share this knowledge with the others!” exclaimed Courageous Wolf. But his mom didn’t have the time…

So, Little Sunrise went to the village chief to tell him what the Great Sky Ruler had said. The chief responded, “I accept and I’ll do what the Sky Ruler commanded and I’ll gather the people to worship the Spirits.”

At night, they held a meeting where the Village Chief asked his people to stop fighting. They agreed to stop arguing and worship the Spirits right then. So, they had a big powwow dance with beautiful headdresses and masks, and they started to worship the Spirits.

Late that night when everyone was asleep, The Great Sky Ruler sent a big storm. Raindrops fell–the ancestors coming back to help their people–and the plants instantly began to come back to life.   

The next morning, in the cool, damp air, the tribe saw something… But not just anything. It was a masterpiece, a magical thing, full of colors; red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet. It was perched right above where Little Sunrise had pleaded with the Great Sky Ruler.

From that day on, every time the rainbow appeared, the people remembered that magical day when happiness ruled the land!