Focus Lesson Planning Sheet

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Focus Lesson Planning Sheet

Focus Lesson Topic

Understanding A Small Moment

Based on a focus lesson by Lucy Calkins and Abby Oxenhorn

in Small Moments: Personal Narrative Writing (2003) Heinemann


Mentor Text: A Chair For My Mother by: Vera Williams


Over the past few weeks we have done a lot of writing that is connected to our own lives. We have thought of special memories from our lives, made pictures in our heads, and began writing these special stories on paper. Today we are beginning a new unit of study. We’re going to learn how writers catch small moments from their lives and stretch them out into small moment stories.

Explicit Instruction

Show the students the book A Chair For My Mother by Vera Williams.

Boys and girls, I want you to notice the way the author in this story takes a small moment and stretches it across a few pages. An example of this is the part where the mother and her daughter are walking home and they see their building on fire. Rather than write, “We got home and saw the fire. Everyone was safe.” Vera decided to stretch this moment out by telling us many tiny details. Here is what she wrote:

My mother and I were coming home from buying new shoes. I had new sandals. She has new pumps. We were walking to our house from the bus. We were looking at everyone’s tulips. She was saying she liked the red tulips and I was saying that I liked yellow ones.
Did you hear all those details! Listen to the next part.
Then we came to our block. Right outside our house stood two big engines. I could see lots of smoke. Tall orange flames came out of the roof. All the neighbors stood in a bunch across the street. Mama grabbed my hand and we ran. My uncle Sandy saw us and ran to us. Mama yelled, “Where’s Mother?” I yelled, “Where’s my Grandma?”
As I read this aloud to you I could picture all those details in my head. One detail was “They were coming home from buying shoes.” Another was “They passed the …”

Guided Practice

What else did Vera put in her story that was a detail? Invite students to turn and talk to a friend.
Share their responses. Some additional details include:

  • She told us what the mother and daughter bought when they were out.

  • She wrote about what they were looking at on their way home and included the colors of those tulips.

  • She mentioned that there were 2 engines.

  • She listed things that she could see.

  • She described how the neighbors were gathered.

  • She included details about what the neighbors were talking about.

These are all great examples of the details that Vera included in her small moment. Notice how these details are stretched out over a few pages and they help us picture the story.

Send Off [for Independent Practice]

Now during independent writing I want you to take a small moment from your life and stretch it out by writing many details about it. Try to stretch out your small moment over a few pages in your books.

Group Share

Ask 1-2 children to read aloud a small moment. Comment on how the students zoomed in and focused on one small moment in their story and added details.

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