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The Outdoor Path to Good Writing

About this Daily Classroom Special:
The Outdoor Path to Good Writing was written  by Teachers Network web mentor, Lisa Kihn, a math and language arts teacher at Nevin Platt Middle School in Boulder, Colorado. Lisa believes in project based learning and curriculum integration to actively involve students in their learning process.


The Outdoor Path to Good Writing is a comprehensive writing activity that enables students to successfully brainstorm ideas that will lead to the creation of realistic fiction stories. This activity engages every student and learning style because it involves taking a hike with the class and reflecting on nature and how it changes with the seasons. Students are given the opportunity to sit down and think about themselves on the hiking trail. They are encouraged to look inside themselves to see who they are and what stories they can tell about their lives. Students are asked to write about themselves, using various prompts, and also to look carefully at their environment. Later in the school year, students return to the same spot to write about themselves again. On both excursions, students are asked to make a sketch of the mountain scene in front of them. 

Most students enjoy telling stories about themselves. To help them do this, they are asked to create, first, a poster using their artwork and writing, and then to write a realistic fiction story based on personal experience to share with the class and their families.

A particularly powerful component of this assignment is the parent input that comes with a writing piece they are asked to do for their children. Together, parents and children explore the writing process and create an insightful work of art to keep for years to come.

The following items are components of this project:

Parent Letter
Fall Writing Ideas (to use on the hike)
Realistic Fiction Peer Evaluation
Writing Self-Evaluation

After the hike and the completion of the Fall Writing Ideas worksheet and the sketch, we bring the material back to the classroom. Students create a poster using all of their pieces. They share these posters with the class. 

From this preparatory work, students generate ideas for a realistic fiction piece. Before they embark on these, we discuss what makes a good story lead, as well as how to describe characters and settings, how to write realistic dialogue, and what makes an effective conclusion.


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