E-Mail: peterlourie@gmavt.net

 

State Report & Adventure Writing Unit Plan

 

     Our goal is to develop a new 5th grade state report project, which blends research with adventure writing.  Looking at the way we taught this unit last year, we found that the research portion of this project was very beneficial to the students.  However, the writing portion was lacking in creativity and was very fairly unmotivating to the students.  This proposed project would maintain the research portion, but would add creativity and excitement to the writing portion.  We will also add a portion which will help students to identify similarities and differences between states and regions. 

David Somoza and Brett Adams

Stevens Elementary

Ballston Lake, NY

Two Student Essays that came from this Project

Outline of Plan:

              Part I:  Research

  • Students will conduct research about U.S. states using reference books, trade books, websites. 
  • Students will follow our guidelines in their research and will gather specific information about their states.

 

              Part II:  Adventure Writing

  • Students will learn the key elements of adventure writing and practice writing them.
  • Students will write their own adventure using the factual information found in their research about their specific states.  Students will integrate the geography, climate, history, and culture of their state into their writing.
  • Students will read and analyze Peter Lourie’s The Lost Treasure of Captain Kidd, which will serve as a model of a great adventure story.
  • Guest author, Peter Lourie, will visit the class at the completion of the project and will share his knowledge of adventure writing and experiences with the students.

 

              Part III:  Regional Studies

  • Students will be divided into groups based on the region of the U.S. in which their state is located.
  • Groups will find similarities and differences between their states and create a plan for a group story within their region.

 

              Part IV:  Presentation

  • Each group will plan and present their “Road Trip” to the class.  Presentations may include skits about the group’s hypothetical trip to a region of the U.S. 
All presentations will include factual information about the region. 

 

  • Adventure Planning Page

    Name:         

    State?

    Season?

    Starting Point?

    Means of Transportation?

    What are you searching for?

    First -

     

     

     

    Second -

     

     

     

     

    Third -

     

     

     

     

    Fourth -

     

     

     

     

    Fifth -

     

     

     

     

 

Action Research Project

State Report & Adventure Writing

By Brett Adams & David Somoza

 

     As we began our planning for the fifth grade state report project, we discussed the problems that had arisen last year when we taught the same unit.   We recalled that the research portion of this project was very beneficially to the students.  However, the writing portion was lacking in creativity and was very fairly unmotivating to the students.  So we came up with a new plan which would maintain the research portion, but would add creativity and excitement to the writing portion.  Our goal was to develop a new 5th grade state report project, which blends research with adventure writing. 

             

Planning and Preparation:

     Many questions arose as we began to seriously consider this plan.  We wondered how we could successfully integrate the research of factual information with the writing of a fictitious adventure story; we wondered how to begin the project; we wondered what procedure we should follow; we wondered how to help those who struggled; and we wondered what the final products would look like. 

Our ultimate goals were for the students to learn:

  • how to effectively research a given topic.
  • how to use technology to assist them in the research process.
  • to use a variety of sources in their research.
  • to rewrite researched information in their own words.
  • about the adventure writing genre by reading and analyzing examples.
  • the common elements of adventure stories.
  • how to plan and write their own adventure story that remains consistent with the common elements of the adventure genre.
  • how to integrate researched information into their adventure stories.
  • how to express their creative thoughts in writing.
  • that writing can be incredibly fun!

 

Process:

     We began the project with a class brain-storming session to identify the common elements of adventure stories.  We defined adventure writing and spent time outlining our expectations for the project.  We also introduced students to the term narrative writing and made distinctions between first person and third person narratives.  Students were told that their adventures should be written in first person narrative form.

For the first two weeks of the unit we exposed students to short samples of adventure writing while simultaneously providing opportunities for them to do creative writing adventures.  The reading material that we used came from two traveling adventure writers, Tom Claytor and Kevin Korell.  Students read and analyzed the writing samples in an attempt to learn how the authors wove factual information into their stories.  Students worked in small groups and discussed their findings.  During this time students were also given opportunities to do their own creative writing.  The first writing piece was based on a slide of a desolate Anasazi ruin in a remote desert.  The next writing piece was based on a short video clip set in Medieval Europe with intriguing music of the Medieval Period dubbed in.  The final creative writing piece was based on a video clip of the Central American jungle and Mayan temples.  Vibrant Latin music was dubbed into this video track. 

    

    Next we introduced the students to a variety of technology tools which would help them in their research. 

Such tools included the use of:

  • online encyclopedias
  • Internet websites
  • the task bar
  • Windows operating system
  • minimizing and maximizing documents
  • Google images
  • cutting and pasting
  • templates

     Through a series of lessons students instructed in how to use these tools and were given opportunities to use them.  Once the students were comfortable with the tools, they each chose their individual state to study and began researching.  They compiled their researched material in templates, which they had copied into their computer folders.  They collected information about their state under the following topics:

  • Climate
  • Geography
  • Natural Resources
  • Culture/traditions
  • History
  • People of today
  • Economy
  • Education
  • Food
  • Sports
  • Tourism/attractions
  • Transportation

     This information was to be re-written in their own words in the templates within their computer folders.  Particular attention was paid to the climate and geography section during the early part of this project.

             

    Students began the adventure writing phase with pre-writing plans.  Next they selected a location in the state where they wanted to begin their adventure.  They found a photo of this place using Google images.  This photo became the inspiration for their introductory paragraph.  They began the adventure by describing this selected location in great detail.  In the next section of their writing, students explained how they (the main character in the story) had arrived at this location.  They also explained what the main character was in search of.  These initial parts of the adventures served as introductions that led up to the adventures.

             

    Next the students planned out in greater detail the events and obstacles of the story.  Once a suitable plan was established, students began writing the adventures.  As the students wrote, they frequently went back to do additional research to help make their stories more realistic (for example, looking up the name of a stream, a hotel, or a restaurant).  Throughout this process, we conducted “critique circles” during which time students read their pieces aloud to either the whole class or to a small group.  The other members of the class or group critiqued the writing and offered helpful suggestions. 

             

    Eventually, as the stories come to a close, we will focus on two new aspects – resolution and reflection.  In the final section, the students will resolve the problems of their stories and have their main character reflect on the completed adventure.  This portion serves as each story’s conclusion.  At the completion of the story, time will be spent celebrating the work and students will be asked to read their stories aloud to the class. 

   In addition to the writing project, students presented smaller, independent, research projects about their states.  These projects were discussed in class, but the work was done entirely at home.  Along with these independent projects, each student was asked to find a recipe from his or her state.  As a culminating activity, students presented their independent projects and brought in food to share in a state food and information celebration. 

    During most of the time that the students were writing their adventures, they were also reading and analyzing an adventure novel called The Lost Treasure of Captain Kidd by Peter Lourie.  We used this novel as a means of gaining insight into the mind of an adventure writer.  We dissected and analyzed the text to look for patterns, plot structure, techniques for developing characters, engaging uses of descriptive language, and ways of integrating fact with fiction.  Students read together in small group settings and then discussed the given discussion questions before writing out their individual responses in journals.  This exciting adventure novel provided a great model for the students to learn from while they were in the writing process themselves.

     Several days after the novel was completed, the author came to our class for a visit.  He spent one entire morning with us.  He shared adventures of his own from his travels throughout the U. S. and the rest of the world.  He also spent time discussing many aspects of The Lost Treasure of Captain Kidd and answering students’ questions about the novel.  Finally, he spent time talking about adventure writing, giving suggestions to students for their own writing, and providing the students with inspiration to continue writing.

 

Reflection:

     Soon the state report adventure will draw to a close.  When this end date became a reality, we sat down to discuss what aspects of this project were truly positive and what parts could stand some improvement.  What follows is a compilation of that reflection. 

Positives

 

  1. Students had a recognized and valued outlet to express their creativity.  Embedding a creative adventure writing piece in the traditional state report validated the form and by association validated the creativity the students brought to the exercise. 
  2. Students could work at their own pace and their own instructional level.  While certain components were taught in the large class setting, students frequently completed research, writing, rewriting, etc. as their piece needed; not necessarily on a specified classroom timeline. 
  3. The project demanded a new level of technological understanding and application and students met that challenge.  Through the course of the project students learned to cut & paste, utilize the task bar, move between multiple windows, work in multiple documents, download a template into their server, and import and format photos. 
  4. All aspects of the project were student centered rather than teacher centered.  Students researched information that was relative to their adventure; not a prescribed set of cloze activities. 
  5. This project offered students an opportunity to learn a whole new genre, adventurewriting.  For many students treading the line between fact and fiction, while staying away from the boundless world of fantasy writing, formed the main challenge. 
  6. Many students were thoroughly excited about writing and conducting research.  These students enjoyed working through the demands of believable fiction steeped in facts. 

 

Improvements

  1. Discuss the fantasy genre and draw distinctions between fantasy and adventure writing earlier in the project.  We found ourselves explaining why tracking down aliens who kidnapped Jimi Hendrix’s ghost was not exclusively a problem faced by Texas. 
  2. Schedule adventure writer author visit earlier in the project.  Peter Lourie will visit the class just as the project finishes.  While some might argue this is a fine culminating activity, we thought a presentation from someone like Lourie would inspire students near the start of the project. 
  3. Find a website that shows many high quality, different maps (political, topographical, highway, attractions, etc.) of each state to help students plan the course of their adventure. 
  4. Create more initial structure.  Allowing students autonomy over the direction of their project proved fantastic and motivating for many students.  However, some students who were either weaker writers or less motivated occasionally floundered.  There are also wide discrepancies in actual state knowledge.  The project needed more structure at the beginning with an understanding that students could move into less restrictive space if they felt confident or if they completed the initial research easily.  Attached are some ideas and forms that might work to create more structure for this project in the future. 

Plan for more scaffolding

 

  • Begin by researching geography, climate, and history of given state.  This will give students background information before they begin the creative writing piece and ensure that students end the project with some solid knowledge of their state and its features. 
  • Figure out what you are searching for.  Adventure stories are usually looking for something and our students came up with their own searches.  Since the search determines where the adventure will progress through the state, nailing this down early on is essential.  Many students refined their searches through the project and that worked fine.  One student began by searching for an emerald donkey in New Hampshire.  After some research she decided to search for a smoky quartz newt, a prize more indigenous to New Hampshire. 
  • Maps.  By pouring over different types of maps students will get a better idea of what is in their state, and what areas of the state the might visit in their quest. 
  • Based on the maps, plan a route through the state. 
  • Find downloadable pictures of each spot you plan to visit. 
  • Complete the planning template.  In reflection, we realized students needed a more concrete prescription for an adventure story.  Adventure stories often follow a predictable pattern so we developed a planning template that follows that pattern. 

Two Student Essays that came from this Project

Planning Template

                                                                                                                              Picture                

Place:

Description:

 

Event:

Obstacle:

New Plan:

                                                                                                                              Picture                

Place:

Description:

 

Event:

Obstacle:

New Plan:

 

*****

 

The Lost Treasure of Captain Kidd

By Peter Lourie

 

Chapter 1 (Setting the scene)

  • Briefly describe the two main characters.  In describing them, tell how they are alike and different from one another.

 

  • Describe the setting.  Use an atlas to try to locate the places mentioned.

 

  • What are the main characters in search of?

 

  • Cliffhanger:    Re-read the last sentence in the chapter.  How does it make you feel as a reader?

 

Chapter 2 (The adventure begins)

Describe the new setting and the new character.

 

  • How has the level of excitement changed in this chapter?

 

  • At the end of the chapter Alex and Killian get a warning from Cruger.  Do you think they’ll come back to the island?  Why or why not?

 

Chapter 3 (Background information)

  • At the bottom of page 19, Killian says, “History is everything.”  How does the author weave history into the story?  Why do you think he does this?

 

  • Taking risks is an important element in adventure stories.  What risks did they take in this chapter?  Did the risks take them closer to the treasure?  Did the risks put them in danger’s path?

 

 

Chapter 4 (Character Development)

  • In what ways does Killian’s personality change during this chapter?

 

  • How does Alex feel about these changes in Killian?

 

  • Why do you think the author chose to change Killian’s personality?  What significance do you think this will play in the story?

 

Chapter 5 (Character Development/Suspense)

  • Briefly re-tell the events that led up to Alex’s family’s arrival in Cold Springs. 

 

  • Why do you think the author included this background information on Alex’s family?

 

  • List the elements of the story from pages 28-31 that helped to create a feeling of suspense for the reader.

 

Chapter 6 (Geography and History)

  • The author uses similes and metaphors to enrich his descriptions.  Find a metaphor and a simile from page 34 and write them in your notes.

 

  • Summarize what you learned about the geography of the area as they move north from Cold Spring.

 

  • Summarize what you learned about the history of Captain Kidd.  What was his story?

 

File written by Adobe Photoshop® 5.0

Hudson River

AppleMark    AppleMark    AppleMark

            Stormking Mountain       Boats on the Hudson        Breakneck Ridge

AppleMark      AppleMark

     Breakneck Ridge          Cornwall on the Hudson

AppleMark

Hudson River

 

 

Chapter 7 (Searching for Clues)

  • What was Livingston’s connection with Captain Kidd?

 

  • How did the Earl of Bellomont trick Captain Kidd?

 

  • What clue did Alex “borrow” from the library?  Make a prediction about what will happen now that they have this clue?

 

 

Chapter 8 (Finding Direction)

  • Re-tell the story of Captain Kidd told by Killian in this chapter.

 

  • Describe what they learned from the clue hidden in the book?

 

  • Where are they headed next? Why?

 

Chapter 9 (A Turn of Events)

  • Imagine that you were Killian.  Describe how you would be feeling at this point.

 

  • What would be going through your mind if you were Alex?

 

Chapter 10 (Treasure Hunting Begins)

  • Briefly summarize this chapter in your own words.
  • Make a prediction about what will happen to Killian the night that he sets off in the fog.

 

Chapter 11 (Obstacles)

1.     After reading this chapter, look back over chapters 1-11 and work as a group to complete the activity below:

At the end of chapter one, we know that Alex and Killian are in search of _______________________________________________ . 

Look up the word obstacle and write it’s definition on the line below:

Obstacle - ___________________________________________________________

What obstacles must they overcome in order to find what they’re looking for?

Chapter

Obstacles

1

 

2

 

3

 

4

 

5

 

6

 

7

 

8

 

9

 

10

 

11

 

 

Chapter 12 (Overcoming Obstacles)

  • At the end of the previous chapter, all hope seemed lost forever, like a fire that was put out by the rain.  But in chapter 12 we see that there might still be a hot ember left in this fire.  Will they be able to overcome all of the obstacles?  Make a prediction about what will happen next - include your thoughts about: Killian’s health, the boat, their parents, Florida, and Cruger.

Chapter 13 (New Ideas)

1.   What does the author do to give us hope in this chapter?

  • When an adventure changes directions it’s very important to keep the story believable.  Are Alex’s actions believable?  What do you think about Alex’s new theory of where Captain Kidd may have buried the treasure?  Is this a reasonable solution?  Why or why not?

            

The Lost Treasure of Captain Kidd

By Peter Lourie

 

Chapter 14 (Big Decisions)

1.   In this chapter there’s a discussion about what will be done with the treasure if they find it.  What would you do if you found this treasure?  Explain why you would do this.

Chapter 15 (Outlining)

1.     In this chapter many important events take place.  Use the template below to outline the chapter’s major events.

Come up with your own Chapter Title: _____________________________________________

 

  • Introduction - How does the chapter begin? _________________________________
  • Detail: ______________________________________________________
  • Detail: ______________________________________________________
  • Detail: ______________________________________________________

 

  • First Major Event ___________________________________________________________
    • Detail: ______________________________________________________
    • Detail: ______________________________________________________
    • Detail: ______________________________________________________

 

  • Next Major Event ___________________________________________________________
    • Detail: ______________________________________________________
    • Detail: ______________________________________________________
    • Detail: ______________________________________________________

 

  • Final Major Event ___________________________________________________________
    • Detail: ______________________________________________________
    • Detail: ______________________________________________________
    • Detail: ______________________________________________________

 

        

Chapter 16 (Resolution and Reflection)

1.     In this chapter two very important things happen – the story is resolved (concluded) and the main character reflects (looks back) on his adventure.  Use the table below to take notes on these important elements of the adventure.

How is the story resolved?

What does Alex reflect on?

 

 

 

 

 

 

RESOURCES:

The students are to visit just these Internet sites which have been carefully chosen by the teacher:

http://www.clearwater.org

http://clearwater.org/about.html

http://www.hudsonriver.com/halfmoonpress/stories/hudson.htm

http://www.hudsonriver.com

http://hhr.highlands.com/default.html

http://www.hudsonvalley.org/index.html

 

A Visit with Peter Lourie

 

On April 12th Peter Lourie came to visit our class.  He spent the entire morning with us.  We began in the library where he shared adventures of his own from his travels throughout the U. S. and the rest of the world.  He gave a slide show and talked about his work as an author.  Later we returned to the classroom where he spent time discussing many aspects of The Lost Treasure of Captain Kidd and answering students’ questions about the novel.  At the end of the visit he spent time talking about adventure writing and journaling, giving suggestions to students for their own writing, and providing the students with the inspiration to continue writing.

 

 

Peter talks to the class about adventure writing.

 

 

 

    

Peter talks about some of the strange characters he meets in his travels.

 

       

Students look on as Peter share recordings from his audio journals of the Amazon.

Two Student Essays that came from this Project