Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Narrative Writing with Nothing Ever Happens on 90th Street

I've linked up again with Deanna Jump's We Love Books!

I love when a book just seems like it was written to match my lessons!  And so it is with Nothing Ever Happens on 90th Street by Roni Schotter.

This book is about a young girl named Eva who has been given a written assignment by her teacher.  "Write about what you know" her teacher says, but Eva complains that nothing ever happens that is worth writing about.  As she is sitting outside her neighbors come by and give her some advice.

First, Mr. Sims, the actor, and his cat Olivier, came by.  He tell's Eva "The whole world's a stage -- even 90th Street -- and each of us plays a part.  Watch the stage, observe the players carefully, and don't neglect the details.  Eva immediately starts writing down details about Mr. Sims.

Next Mr. Morley advises her to "Try to find the poetry in your pudding.  There's always a new way with old words."  Eva tries to come up with new words to describe Mr. Morley's chocolate mousse.

Alexis Leora, the dancer, tells Eva "Stretch, use your imagination.  If your story doesn't go the way you want it to you can always stretch the truth.  You can ask 'What if?' and make up a better story."  Eva begins asking 'What if' about her neighbors.

Finally Mrs. Martinez comes out with her soup.  She tells Eva stories are like soup.  "Add a little action.  A little this.  a little that.  And don't forget the spice.  Surprise yourself"

As Eva ponders all this advice, things begin to happen on 90th street.  A baby's ball rolls away causing a pizza delivery man to crash into Alexis Leora.  A car stops with a famous actress stepping out into the fray and offers Mr. Sims a job.  The cat runs off knocking the coffee into the chocolate mousse.  As Eva takes all this action in an idea comes to her.  Her friends should combine their talents and open a restaurant together.  As the story wraps up and problems get solved, we are left wondering which parts of the story really happened and which parts were Eva's newly discovered writing skills.

I must admit it took me a couple of years to fully appreciate this book, but now I love it.  We take this book apart and look at all the advice the characters offer and put it into practice in the kids' own writing.  What I truly love is the fact that throughout the year the kids refer  back to it.  "Don't forget the spice" I hear them say.  "We need to include action"  "Be sure to include descriptive words."  

So I took the activities we did with this book, polished them up some, and created this mini-unit.

Included in this unit are numerous anchor charts including each characters' advice, the characteristics of a narrative, and the story map for the book.


To help the kids totally understand each piece of advice, I have them work in small groups to discuss each and rewrite it in their own words.  Then we take each piece of advice and practice using it together and independently

Finally we work on our own personal narratives.  We map out the events from the book (beginning after all the advice is given) and then map our the events for our own narratives.  Then we revise our work using the advice from the book.  

You can pick up your own copy of this mini-unit here at my Teachers Pay Teachers store.  
To keep your kids working on those writing techniques, you should consider my daily writing journals. These journals are ready to go, quick writes for your students and include  narrative, informational, and persuasive writing prompts.  So have your kids add some action and spice, don't forget the details, and find the pudding in their writing!




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