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The Matchbox Diary

The Matchbox Diary

A writer’s toughest task isn’t finding an idea but figuring out what to do with it

The Matchbox Diary written by Paul Fleishman is an an incredible book that can be used within the classroom as a launching point for narratives, immigration, definition of literacy, American history, industry, etc.  I used this book for a Summer writing camp and in a 2nd grade classroom.  I am sharing my lesson plan outline that I use while teaching. 

·         Sharpened pencils
·         Mechanical Pencils
·         Clipboards
·         Paper
o   Lined
o   Handwriting
o   Final copy
o   Black cardstock- to mount art
o   White thick paper- for art
·         Post-it notes
·         Plastic Sleeves--- to be used for editing if don't don't want to use post-its
·         Dry erase markers-- "
·         Socks (to use as eraser)-- "
·         Sensory word list- From Jeff Anderson book
·         Chart Paper
·         Markers
·         Cigar Box with items in matchboxes it that I can tell stories about  (i.e. seashells, bottlecap, key, dried flower, ticket stub, ring, marbles, (non-item like a paper clip)etc.)
·         Oil Pastels or watercolor
·         Painter’s Tape
·         Report covers

Before--- students bring in 5 items that have memories.  I sent this note as apart of their homework:

Special Assignment!  
We will begin writing narratives in class  for the next few weeks.  Writer’s write about what they know.  As a writer, please bring in 5 small items that trigger a memory or something important that has happened in your life.  Bring items such as a small seashell, concert ticket, bracelet, pin, medal, coin, etc.  All of these items should fit in the attached plastic bag.
Please bring your 5 items Monday.  

Day 1:  Brainstorm, First Draft

Bring in personal Cigar Box, set it and book on the table.

On a chart paper-- write LITERACY 

Ask class what it is to them.  discuss in groups-- ask the following questions as necessary.
Literacywhat does it mean?  What does it look like? How do you engage in literacy? Does being literate really only mean creating meaning from the symbols known as alphabetic letters and characters? What about reading symbols or visual images that are logos or are in advertisements? What about reading wordless picture books? Most of all, who gets to define what literacy is or isn't? 

The field of literacy has actually been pushing for quite some time against traditional definitions that are limited to reading and writing, but what do your students think? Create sticky notes on chart paper. Talk about responses and emphasize that literacy is to CONNECT through writing, stories, and pictures.  

Background Info---historic information about immigration, Ellis Island, America in the early 1920’s, or Italy, the great-grandfather’s country of origin.  Ask students what they know about Ellis Island, show a picture of the statue of liberty.  Talk briefly about what it means to be an immigrant.  Discuss some of the reasons people have for leaving their homeland, sometimes in the face of danger, to live in a new country. 

Ask who keeps a diary or a journal.  Why do they keep one?  What's in their journals?  Is it just words? What's the importance or value of a journal/diary?
Begin reading about half of the book, then paused to do a quick reviewWhat object did the girl choose to have her great-grandfather tell her about? What was inside the cigar box? Why did great-grandfather keep his diary in matchboxes and not written in a book? What was in the first box she opened? What is the story of the olive pit?before finishing the book.

Open my box, pass out boxes and let the kids open them.  Begin telling story of 1 or 2.  Then get to the paperclip
The object in box is my paperclip. I use paperclips all the time. They are really useful. I use this one to hold papers together.
Wait for reactions.  Clearly not a story.  So I ask  group what more they wanted to knowperhaps if they asked me some questions, I might find the paperclips story. Where did you get it? What makes it special? How long have you had it?

Reach for another box.  Begin telling the story.  What else do they want to know- what does my story need to feel complete? Being making a list of what a story must entail. 

In groups of 2-4 have students share items in their boxes.  Ask them and their groups to decide which item has a story they want to tell the most.

Close by sharing what item they think they will share about and what memory it holds.  

Day 2: First Draft/Graphic Organizer 

Read Wilfred Gordon by Mem Fox
What brought about the memories?  Did they have to have words?  

Model writing your first draft with one of your items.  Talk aloud using a bubble map to retrieve all of the important details-- Where was I? Who was I with? What were we doing?  Why? What happened? How did I feel? 

Give students to brainstorm about their item in their writing notebooks.

Take a picture of them with their item in their hands.

Closing:  Share about how using the graphic organizer helped with their memory.  How did they sort it?  What helped organize their thoughts or get the most detail?

Day 3: First Draft Writing

Read Art & Max
--- What happened to the characters? -- emphasize that you can change the form, add details, mix things up, and still have your original idea.  Sometimes starting again or looking things from a different perspective creates something better.  

Share with them my story
The Moose Story
                  i was walkin.  I was walking by myself.  It was late at nite.  I had to go to the bathroom. I got on my bik.  It was foggy. I saw a baby moose.  I heard a loud noise behind me.  A moose was running to me.  I was scared.  I looked for help.  i kept riding.  I went through the forest.  I fell.  I stayed there until she left.  I rode back fast!

Write suggestions on chart paper.  This becomes our checklist of features to include in our writing.
Details, sentence variety, figurative language, capital letters, punctuation, opening sentence, closing sentence, spelling, voice/point of view, transition words, adjectives

Review dialogue marks.  Pass out sensory words sheet for descriptive words. (can find online if don't have Jeff Anderson book)  

Model writing my own story with an item from my box in front of them.  Think out loud and look to my graphic organizer for details.  

Give students time to write their story.  Share with a friend what they have written so far.  

Day 4:  Finish First Draft/Revisions
Read Chester    Emphasize that the writer has the power!  Whoever has the pen decides what happens.  There's power in what they write.  When we share writing we want it to be whole and complete and that sometimes another set of eyes can help strengthen us. Re-read the moose story from the day before--- ask them to give me a strength--- something I did well.  Then, a teaching point--- something to work on.  Show them how to write this on a sticky note-- star for strength, circle for teaching point.  

Give students time to finish first drafts.  When they are ready meet with a friend and on a sticky note write strength and teaching points.  Students can also put their writing in clear plastic sheet protectors to give additional specific editing marks.  I like using the sheet protectors so that it doesn't mess up the authors writing or distract-- or on the off chance the edits aren't right.  :)  

Revise on that paper or start a 2nd draft.
Day 5:  Revisions and Editing

Read --- finish reading/editing with 2 friends.  

As students finish their revision they meet with teacher to conference and revise.   Pass out final draft paper as they finish with drafts.  Give mechanical pencils.  

Day 6: Finish final drafts and create art piece to go with it.
Read The Secret Box

Teacher models sketch and art of item or memory.

Sketch out ideas of item on post it- or small piece of paper.  Approve with me and then give oil pastels or watercolors and small squares to draw. Put in report covers, bind, etc.

In my 2nd Grade Class I had them paint with watercolor and I introduced strategies for using the paint.  They were really easy and turned out amazing.  We matted them on place pieces of paper and hung them in the hall above their writing.  

Share and celebrate!!!

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