Please help me be a better writing teacher! - ProTeacher Community


LisaToo LisaToo is offline
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Please help me be a better writing teacher!
Old 06-15-2011, 12:20 PM
 
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Like a poster a few messages down, I struggle with teaching writing. This will be my 3rd year teaching 5th grade, and while I think I'm doing a little better, I'd really like to have some focused ideas on what to teach, not just 'persuasive writing' and 'response to literature'. I did a few lessons on 'hooks' (ways to begin a piece of writing) that the kids really liked, but I want more things like that. The kids really want to learn HOW to write, HOW to make their writing better - and I feel at a loss to help them! So, here is my question(s):
1. What specific things do you teach? (For example, with persuasive, we'd do a pro/con list; choose two pros and a con; change the con to a pro. That would then be my 5 paragraph essay. Intro, pro #1, pro #2, counterargument, conclusion). Another teacher at my school does her counterargument not as a paragraph but as a single sentence. This may sound dumb but, where are the rules of persuasive writing written? I want to know exactly what is required (and the state standards don't do that).
2. What kind of 'minilessons' do you do? (I had my 'hook' lesson, and one on 'showing not telling' - that's all I can think of that I did as little extras to boost the persuasive writing stuff.

Thank you all for your help! My summer focus is going to be writing and I'm looking forward to starting on my planning!


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Old 06-15-2011, 04:52 PM
 
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I would design your "Units of Study" by looking at real examples of the work you want students to do. I'm not sure there are specific rules about writing styles (ie. this is what has to be in a persuasive writing) but I find it's best to look at adult examples and think about what makes it a strong example (or to look at other examples and think about what might be missing/is weak). Then you can pull your mini-lessons from the things you think are important, and you have examples ready to go to share.

So you could do mini-lessons focused on the "lead" and show examples of different leads, conclusions, etc. You could look at paragraph anatomy -- how the topic sentence can be in different places, depending on how the writer chooses to write. At least with persuasive pieces, you could discuss how to order your paragraphs, thinking about which is their strongest argument and putting it last. You could do lessons focusing on how to decide which supporting details to include.

With fiction, I would recommend the same thing, but look at picture books as they are shorter and more manageable. Look for what makes you love a particular book -- is it the language? Is it the dialogue? The story structure? These can become the lessons that you teach.

Hope that helps :-) If you want any recommendations of my favorite picture books, I will gladly share. I use a lot of TFK or Scholastic News for Non-Fiction texts.
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Descriptive writings & mini lessons
Old 06-15-2011, 06:03 PM
 
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You can also teach mini-lessons on adding descriptive words and share through examples. Read excerpts that have similar content but one that is much richer and details and have students try to picture it. Then tell them to draw what you just read to them. They'll see that they all have something different. Next, try reading about the same object with a lot of descriptions. Have students draw this and see if their visualization is closer to the author's intent and discuss why that could be. I also had students make a craft (snowman) and describe it in first person on a separate sheet of paper, and see if their peers could match the description with the snowman based on the writing. Kids can also play games with groups where each group has a brown paper bag with hidden objects in it and they have to describe an object and see if the other groups can guess what it is based on their adjectives. This was a hit when I used it.

Along with description, you can also do mini-lessons on writing using all of the senses.

Just like you taught lessons on interesting hooks, you want to lead students to have a catchy ending that summarizes their points and will resonate with the audience.

You can also talk about various modes of communicating. How you write persuasively is different from informatively, etc. Also, how students talk with their friends or text is different from how they speak with a teacher. They need to think of the audience they have in mind for their writing and make it appropriate.
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Old 06-15-2011, 06:58 PM
 
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I'm looking at your Pt status and see just 57 posts since 2005. I'm wondering if you only visit Pt on occasion.

I mention this because your concerns are not uncommon. You are among good company. And lots of threads have been written here on this topic.

You might want to go back through many pages on this board and look at other times this issue has been raised. Lots of educational books on the topic have been evaluated and the ideas from those books expanded upon. You'd have a wealth of ideas for an hour or so of your time.
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Writing
Old 06-16-2011, 03:58 AM
 
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Hi there! First let me start by saying that you are not alone. I've been teaching writing now for 5 years and I used to feel exactly how you felt. What helped me was looking at how other teachers in my team (who were more comfortable with teaching writing) taught it and also attending Melissa Forney's writing conferences. I would love to help you out as best as I can. Please note that I'm a fourth grade teacher in Florida and we don't focus on persuasive writing too much in fourth grade because our students need to learn about narrative and expository writing. Here are some of my answers to your questions:

1. What specific things do you teach? Where are the rules of persuasive writing written?


This past school year I facilitated a writing workshop for teachers in my school and I went over some tips on how to teach persuasive writing. Here is what I shared with them:
  • Persuasive writing is writing to persuade/convince
  • The writer must choose a position (pro or con) and clearly support the chosen position
  • The writer cannot be on the fence on the topic. He must clearly choose one position. However, knowledge of the opposing position and their opposing argument is important in order to offer a "counter-attack"
  • The writer should use direct address to write persuasively and keep it persuasive to avoid changing their writing into expository. (You should require no fewer than 5 uses of direct address in each essay.
  • In order to help writers with using direct address you can give them various opportunities during the year to write a persuasive paragraph or piece and direct their writing to someone in specific whether it is the teacher, a parent, the principal, etc...
  • Use of the O.R.E.O. strategy may also help students setup their papers when writing a persuasive piece. Here's what O.R.E.O. stands for:
    • Opinion - the writer states their opinion in their introduction
    • Reason - the writer provides reasons for supporting their opinion/position
    • Example - the writer provides examples to further support their reasons
    • Opinion - the writer states their opinion/position again and finishes their writing with a call to action
These are some tips I shared with the middle school teachers in my school. I'm attaching the handout I provided for the teachers during the workshop. I hope this helps too.

Another thing that helped me as I was planning on what tips to give about persuasive writing is that I looked at writing samples my state provides for us of various scored student papers. I looked closesly at these examples and looked for common trends on highly scored papers.

2. What kind of "mini-lessons" do you do?

Looking at the example you provided above, it seems that your lesson on "hooks" (which I call grabbers) was really exciting for your students. You should try to do a variety of mini-lessons that will actively engage your students with writing. Try to come up with a "DO IT" component of your mini-lessons to make them more engaging. What I mean by that is try to give students concrete examples to do or be involved in before they actually write. When I was helping my students with expository writing, I modeled for them by providing a concrete example before we wrote. My topic was that my favorite activity to do was to blow bubbles. So, I blew bubbles in front of them and had them make a list of words that described how the bubbles looked and what they did (adjectives and verbs). We shared their words and then compiled a class list. Then I showed them how I planned my writing and they then created their plans. I kept on modeling for them the various parts of the expository piece. I practied a lot of I DO, WE DO, YOU DO. With writing I have learned that the teacher needs to model, model, model and be excited about writing too. This makes a great difference!

I suggest you also get your hands on the book Writing Whizardry by Maity Schrocegost. The book contains TONS of writing mini-lessons that target focus, elaboration, writing skills, etc. Her lessons are very engaging and students will find them meaningful.

As for me, the writing mini-lessons I do focus on a variety of writing skills and how to organize their writing, as well as notes of the different writing genres. I start the year with a writing pre-test to see where my students are. I follow that with having students take two-column notes on what they already know about Narrative and Expository writing as well as provide them with additional notes on both too. Following that, I start with how to read a prompt, how to plan, and how to write a topic sentence. Once students know how to write a topic sentence, I introduce grabbers (or hooks) and have them practice writing grabbers to different writing prompts. We don't write a full paper on these prompts, just a beginning (introduction) paragraph that contains a grabber and a topic sentence.


After students learn how to write a beginning paragraph, I show them how a narrative middle looks and how an expository middle looks. Once I start teaching the middle of a writing piece, I incorporate various mini-lessons that help students:
  • elaborate
  • stay on topic
  • show not tell
  • paint word pictures
  • use stronger verbs
  • use sensory details
  • use sizzling vocabulary (million dollar words)
  • use similes, metaphors, and idioms
  • add dialogue
  • adding sound effects (onomatopoeia)
  • adding personification
  • adding alliteration
These are just a few of the mini-lessons I incorporate to help them fully develop their topic in the middle of their writing.

I also teach them how to end their writing (conclusion) which is short and to the point. The ending is usually just one or two sentences long. Following the ending, I teach them how to add a zinger which is just an additional sentence or two that adds something extra to make the reader think, feel, or smile.

I hope these tips have helped you in some way. If you have any other questions, please feel free to let us know. Have a wonderful day!


Attached Files
File Type: pdf Persuasive Writing OREO Strategy and Tips.pdf (269.2 KB, 693 views)
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writing mini-lessons
Old 06-16-2011, 07:31 AM
 
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You've gotten some really great advice. If you're interested in creating units of study as TchurGurl suggested, I would recommend Katie Wood Ray's book Study Driven. It's an approachable text that helps show how to examine sample texts through inquiry and develop rubrics to help students create their own.

One type of text I teach every year is a list article. You've read those magazine articles that have titles like "Eight Great Reasons to Visit Philadelphia" or "Ten Things You Didn't Know About Giraffes". First we read many list articles and discuss. We also look closely at introductions since many of these articles have really great ones. Then I have kids choose a topic to write about (with my approval) and begin research. Then they write about their topic in list article format. It's a good fall writing project because it gets them doing research, but isn't a terribly difficult format to write in. We can also go back later and take out the numbers and insert transition words; btw, transition words for different types of writing can make great mini-lessons.

Mariely had great ideas for mini-lessons. Katie Wood Ray also has a book called Wondrous Words that really focuses on writer's craft. It has great examples from children's literature and helped me understand what other teachers were talking about when they kept telling me that I needed to teach writer's craft.

Finally, I would suggest you google "smiley face tricks", so named because they are some of the "tricks" that make writing good enough to earn a smiley face on a paper.
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If you read
Old 06-16-2011, 08:28 AM
 
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books by Ralph Fletcher(The Writing Workshop and Aimee Buckner (Notebook Connections)they may give you ideas on writer's notebooks which may give you a start for writing.
Perhaps if you choose six genres to do in a year and do one major writing piece for each genre, you can concentrate on one at a time. For example,let's say you decide to do memoir as one genre; immerse the students in that genre. Show them picture books and other mentor texts that are memoirs so they can see what a memoir is, how it's written and then hopefully they can write one from this genre study.
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More Great Ideas
Old 06-16-2011, 11:12 AM
 
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I really like the many ideas that have been shared here. Thank you luv2teachkids for mentioning the smiley face tricks. I'm going to have to google that idea myself.
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Standards
Old 06-17-2011, 07:47 AM
 
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The standards may be vague but the new common core standards do clearly state that a counterarguement is expected. There are different models of persuasive writing but you should try to use rubrics provided by either your state standards or the common core as a starting point for creating your own.
In the past our state standards did not require the counterarguement, which is why I noticed the difference when I read through the common core standards with a little research you'll feel more confident in the methods you use. You may also check the format through a variety of textbooks. I'll attach a graphic organizer that I created. I use this as we work through the various components of a persuasive essay and we usually write one paragraph at a time.
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File Type: docx Persuasive GO.docx (85.8 KB, 411 views)
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Old 06-17-2011, 08:58 AM
 
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Thanks for sharing your wonderful persuasive graphic organizer. What you said about the counter arguement is true. The writing needs to have know of the opposing position and be able to offer a counter arguement. Thanks again for sharing your ideas!
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I teach 5 major writings during the year
Old 06-18-2011, 04:50 AM
 
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I start with a narrative based on our first all class novel, Bridge to Terabithia. I tend to tie writing to our reading so it all makes sense for the kids. After we finish the novel study, the kids write their own version of Terabithia in as much sensory detail as they can. I've also done grammar lessons on adjectives and adverbs prior to the writing so they can incorporate those in the piece - again, trying to bring all my components together.

We then do a persuasive essay based off our second round of novel studies for Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, Among the Hidden, or Tuck Everlasting. Each of those books has something in it that could be persuaded - for instance, do you believe animal testing is ethical (Mrs. Frisby)? Do you think 3rd child laws like those in AtH are ethical? They write a 5 paragraph persuasive about their opinion and do some research to back up their opinions.

Next, we write a poetry book that is published using Student Treasures (google them for details). This is a nice way to come back from Christmas break.

I incorporate expository writing into a book report on a nonfiction book - they have to pick a nonfiction subject that they can detail out to me step by step. They then present to the class.

Finally, we write a research paper - in detail. We work on how to properly cite, paraphrase etc. This one takes some time, but they need to know the skills!

I also assign a weekly Paragraph of the Week (google it for topics) and adjust the rubric to fit whatever grammar rules or writing elements I've done for that week.

Hope that helps!
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Old 06-18-2011, 07:04 AM
 
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I'm interested in this paragraph a week program. Do you only grade them on what you're covering that week? Like Focus Correction Areas? Also, do you have them use a special notebook or do you just have them hand in a single paper each week? Do you do brainstorming in class first?

I also like this because I think kids need to write more in general.
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Thank you all so much!
Old 06-18-2011, 03:00 PM
 
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Thank you all for the time and effort you put into your replies! There really are some amazing teachers on this web site! (Even though I have so few posts on PT, I'm on the board several times a week! I don't post very often though!) I will definitely follow up with your suggestions - I have some of the books mentioned here (I am actually overwhelmed with the number of books I have - I love EBay! - I have so many that many times I don't know where to start and get frustrated that way. It is so helpful to have someone say 'Start here.') I will definitely check out the things you have mentioned! Thanks again.

(And if you want to give me some hints on 'Response to Literature' I'd love that too!)
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Thanks Mariely...
Old 06-24-2011, 04:14 AM
 
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...for all the great ideas. I love the OREO strategy!
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Grading Paragraph of the Week
Old 06-24-2011, 11:22 AM
 
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I have a rubric that always has a few of the same items (using our paragraph rules, writing in black or typing, having parent sign etc.) and then I vary the other items according to the things we've been talking about. If it's a descriptive paragraph, I ask for a certain number of adjectives to be highlighted. If we've studied a literary concept like hyperbole, I'll ask for examples of that. I also ask for past skills so they don't forget them - writing is definitely a skill that requires constant reinforcement
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We use journals
Old 06-24-2011, 01:25 PM
 
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in our classrooms in addition to writing...we have to do narrative, expository, and persuasive in 5th grade. On Monday, the students are given a journal topic. They have to write a paragraph in their journal and turn it in by Friday. I don't grade these, but respond to them. The students know the expectations about length, grammar, etc. The topics vary...What makes you happy?, Who do you admire and why? What do you like to do on a rainy day?, etc.
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Old 06-24-2011, 05:46 PM
 
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You are most welcome! Always happy to help.
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writing resource on the web
Old 06-28-2011, 09:01 PM
 
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I teach 2nd grade and use the following website for many of my ideas for teaching writing. It uses mentor texts to teach writing to students using the writing process.

writing fix (just add the www and com and take out the space between these two words and you will find it)

Hope you find it helpful.
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Marvelous Minilessons
Old 07-09-2011, 05:53 AM
 
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for Teaching Intermediate Writing, Grades 4-6 (published by the International Reading Association) has a set of minilessons for a Persuasive writing unit, including:
- Agree or Disagree? (Finding a topic you care about)
- What, why and how do you know? (planning and organizing the writing)
- Face the Facts (using facts and statistics to provide evidence)
- AIM for a good beginning (Attention-getter, background Information, Main point)
- End with an I, You or We Statement (call to action)
- Loaded words (may also be found on readwritethink.org)
- Other people might say...(Anticipating the argument)

There's a similar chapter on Research Report writing.
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CAFE Meets 6 Traits
Old 07-10-2011, 04:07 PM
 
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First off, let me begin by saying that I believe VERY strongly in Lucy Calkins Units of Study. That being said, this year I am using the format of CAFE from the Sisters and setting it up to be the 6 traits. As we learn a new strategy (like those recommended in 6 Traits and UoS), we will post them on the wall. Anchor charts will still surround the room, but this will be a quick view of strategies that we've learned.
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Great tips
Old 07-18-2011, 08:02 PM
 
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I love the OREO example...I'll have to check out the smiley technique too!
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Lucy Calkins & CAFE
Old 08-20-2011, 01:01 AM
 
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I tried that last year and I found it worked great! As with the reading, after going over different mini lessons from the traites you had the anchor charts to support the teaching and remind the kids of all the skills they have learned. This helped the kids have a better understanding of what traites and sepcific skills they needed to focus on. I found it helped me keep focused as well. I was able to meet with kids individually and in small groups (writing teams) to work on specific writing skills to improve their writing. I am by no means an expert on Calkins, but from what I read and tried last year, I found her approach to writing merged well with the Sisters approach to reading.
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teaching arrative using videos
Old 07-21-2012, 10:09 AM
 
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I have been teaching fourth grade writing for five years. I usually start with a assessment of my students to evaluate their writing. from then I proceed with my beginnings and the other elements needed for this genre. Lucky for me, my yearly FCAT writing results have been of the chain. However, this year I wanted to incorporate the use of videos to enhance their attention and to keep them engage. I am having a difficult time beginning my lessons. I was wondering if anyone had any ideas. Maybe you can suggest some videos that i could use and a method to get me started. I would appreciate it.
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teaching narrative using videos
Old 07-21-2012, 11:25 AM
 
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I have been teaching fourth grade writing for five years. I usually start with a assessment of my students to evaluate their writing. from then I proceed with my beginnings and the other elements needed for this genre. Lucky for me, my yearly FCAT writing results have been of the chain. However, this year I wanted to incorporate the use of videos to enhance their attention and to keep them engage. I am having a difficult time beginning my lessons. I was wondering if anyone had any ideas. Maybe you can suggest some videos that i could use and a method to get me started. I would appreciate it.
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