#TCRWP: Information Writing

Well, the June 2014 week of Writing Institute ended one month ago.  The finale included a “flash mob”, laughing and crying, and singing.  Memorable.  Unforgettable.  How do we have evidence of our growth?

We wrote.  We wrote some more.  And even more.  We wrote again and again using the lessons that we were practicing orally and in writing during our sessions.  Here’s just a view of my drafts.

What patterns do you notice in the drafts?

 # Draft 1

DRAFT 1  Monday, June 23

“Writing isn’t really important if it’s okay to write poorly.  Writing should be high quality or don’t even bother asking students to write.”  Mary E quote to begin June Writing Institute 2014.

But students have to write at school.  There are 10 writing CCSS ELA Anchor Standards that specifically address writing.  Under reading, 4-6 also address the craft of writing.  Writing is important.

Writing –  what do authors use for beginnings?  A title – promise of the author to the reader.  Provocative beginning– engage, pull them in so they want to write, yet also fit within the context .  Delicate balance between student choice and teacher need for compliance – do what must be  done!

 

Notes and questions:

  • How did looking at how authors began help us as writers?  How could that be used by students in order to begin writing?  How could that also be used by teachers at PD
  • Look again at the titles that Mary chose.  How did she arrive at those?

When we write:

  • How do we begin?  Introductions? Prologue?
  • What language about writing would be inviting and engaging for teachers and students?

Some ideas. Not a lot of content – YET!

Draft Day # 2 

DRAFT 2  For MS and HS Teachers in Districts    What writing is important?

“Writing isn’t really important if it’s okay to write poorly.  Writing should be high quality or you shouldn’t even bother asking students to write,” according to Mary Ehrenworth (TCRWP Writing Institute.  June, 2014).But students do have to write at school.

Is “not writing” a viable option?  Not really, because there are 10 writing CCSS ELA Anchor Standards that specifically address writing in all content areas grades 6-12 as well as in the primary grades.  To underscore the importance of writing, CCSS ELA  Reading Anchor Standards, 4-6 also address the craft of writing.  Therefore, writing is necessary and important at school in order to address the standards.The CCSS propose that the three types of writing covered by CCSS.W. 1 opinion / argument; 2. Informational/explanatory; and 3. Narrative  are to receive approximately equal attention in the elementary grades.  As a student progresses through the grades, narrative writing is de-emphasized and more attention is paid to Standards 1 and 2.

 

What does this mean for Teachers?

Teachers in all content areas are expected to be able to assist students to be better writers within their content expertise.  Will they be “teaching” writing?  Let’s examine this question a bit farther.  Will the science teacher be teaching writing?  Yes and No.  The science teacher will be expected to read, write and speak like a scientist.  The student will use science vocabulary in oral and written work.  Lab reports might be one example of expected science writing. The science teacher has the knowledge and expertise to guide the student in reading and writing as an apprentice scientist.  The business education teacher will assist the students in reading and writing tasks that would be found within the world of business.  Does this mean that every content area class has to now write a term paper?  The CCRR Anchor Standards do not say that every class should be writing a term paper but there should be an expectation for daily reading and writing in each classroom, even in small doses.

 

(What changed in this draft?

  • Explicitly stated purpose
  • Bold headings stated as questions so text includes the answers)

 

Day 3 Draft

 

DRAFT 3 For MS and HS Teachers in Districts   

Writing

Draft: Well-rounded student – information and all -  parenting – everyone has a role . ELA will not be mastering science content but yet having some uniform expectations  (at least having conversations about how individual roles contribute to the greater good !)

 

Chapter 1  Begin at the Beginning

What writing is important?

“Writing isn’t really important if it’s okay to write poorly.  Writing should be high quality or you shouldn’t even bother asking students to write,” according to Mary Ehrenworth (TCRWP Writing Institute.  June, 2014).

But students do have to write at school.  Is “not writing” a viable option?  Not really, because there are 10 writing CCSS ELA Anchor Standards that specifically address writing in all content areas grades 6-12 as well as in the primary grades.  To underscore the importance of writing, CCSS ELA  Reading Anchor Standards, 4-6 also address the craft of writing.  Therefore, writing is necessary and important at school in order to address the standards.

The CCSS propose that the three types of writing covered by CCSS.W. 1 opinion / argument; 2. Informational/explanatory; and 3. Narrative  are to receive approximately equal attention in the elementary grades.  As a student progresses through the grades, narrative writing is de-emphasized and more attention is paid to Standards 1 and 2.

What does this mean for Teachers?

Teachers in all content areas are expected to be able to assist students to be better writers within their content expertise.  Will they be “teaching” writing?  Let’s examine this question a bit farther.  Will the science teacher be teaching writing?  Yes and No.  The science teacher will be expected to read, write and speak like a scientist.  The student will use science vocabulary in oral and written work.  Lab reports might be one example of expected science writing. The science teacher has the knowledge and expertise to guide the student in reading and writing as an apprentice scientist.  The business education teacher will assist the students in reading and writing tasks that would be found within the world of business.  Does this mean that every content area class has to now write a term paper?  The CCRR Anchor Standards do not say that every class should be writing a term paper but there should be an expectation for daily reading and writing in each classroom, even in small doses.

So what will ELA teachers teach about writing if content area teachers have to teach writing? 

Picture this:  Suzie Q is an ELA teacher who LOVES, LOVES, LOVES narrative writing.  She has her students write narratives at the beginning of the year, then she adds in some response to reading, some argument and informational writing.  But a review of her lesson plans and her curriculum map show that Suzie’s students spend 23 out of 36 weeks on Narrative Writing.

Or picture this:  Janie Smith is an ELA teacher who prides herself on giving students choices in what to write.  She begins the year with a unit on each of the following writing genre:  narrative, response to reading, argument, and informational writing.  Each of these four units are approximately four weeks long and are typically completed by the end of the first semester.  During second semester, students can choose their own content to write based on their other course assignments and needs, yet they know that each student will be asked to add at least one more piece of each writing genre to their portfolio collection with a reflection about how it is different from their first semester writing.

 

Which ELA teacher is not only following the spirit of the curriculum but is also focusing on the curriculum of the students?  Correct, Jani Smith, because she has taught the basics and then provides some student choices that allow for increased writing opportunities with fewer “fake” writing assignments just for teachers (OK, snarky – have not included this idea before that writing only for the teacher is a waste of time!)

 

Chapter 2   Predictable Scenarios in Students’ Informational Writing

Katie Clements, TCRWP staff developer, shared these three common predictable patterns of difficulty in Informational Writing for students in grades 3 – 8.  By being aware that other students have had these problems, you yourself can be prepared to plan for a mini-lesson or at the very least to have conference around these issues.  What and how you teach will be built on previous writing instruction in your classroom, but see if any of these ideas spark your thinking!

 

Possible Scenario for Informational Writing:

Disorganized
Only a tiny bit about each part
Jumps right in without setting up expectations

What changes did you note in Draft # 3?

What remains the same?  

What questions remain unanswered for the reader?

 

And then the final four page draft after comments from classmates and my writing partner. (I really struggled with how to “access this format” because I still don’t understand what a Mac can do!)

Still a draft – but formatted 

Over the course of a week, what did you see change?

Only fitting to share this as my Slice of Life this week:  Evidence of Learning at the June Writing Institute 2014!

 Do you save your drafts?  How do you know your writing is improving?

ImageTuesday is the day to share a “Slice of Life” with Two Writing Teachers. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here. 

 

 

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10 responses

  1. Your notes strike at my heart this morning as I have been working HARD on a revised draft of a story that I really think has merit. I am reminded every day that REAL writing is HARD work (even if there is not physical movement beyond the lower part of the arms) and that REVISION is the real work of writing.

    1. Anita,
      So many great things you said:
      Revision is the real work. . . that “just right” precision!
      REAL writing is HARD work . . . very hard, and often why we need a writing partner!
      Revised draft . . . I often revise in my head while driving; thinking, planning, revising = invaluable time!

      Thanks for commenting!

  2. I am having the greatest experience with this issue you share. I am loving collaborative writing on Google Docs. We have been working on a chapter and writing and revising and editing together. At the same time- wow that’s amazing. I know that writing is a solitary experience for many but when you make it social and public wow does it get better fast.

    1. I also like writing collaboratively with Google Docs. I do think sometimes that we need to stop and say: Where did we start? Where are we now? Where are we going?

      Sometimes writing does lose/ shift to a different purpose when it is social and public – need to keep checking that is okay with ALL authors!

  3. Fran,
    Amazing work. You have transported me to the institute. I’ve got new ideas for my writing toolkit AND questions for my students as they go through the writing process. Do I save my drafts? Yes but not for reflective purposes. What an interesting practice though- being meta cognitive above my process. Got me thinking…
    Thanks!

    1. Julieanne,
      I think reflecting on drafts and naming the techniques that I tried that worked as well as the ones that I tried and discarded is an invaluable part of our growth as a writer.

      And now thanks to #TCRWP, I do actually know what to “call” some of them! Love learning, and love to improve my own writing.

      Thanks for commenting! AND for sharing how you think you can use these ideas!

  4. Fran, you provided me much food for thought. I loved seeing the progression of your writing piece and was pleasantly surprised to see the wonderful Final Draft in a visually appealing layout. About revision, I think I need to start saving my drafts to see my progression. Revision is such an art.

    1. Carol,
      There are so many choices when both writing and revising that I do think we are better served if we save some drafts as we work. I cannot over emphasize the value of a writing partner because those conversations were so helpful in thinking about how to be more specific (as in where it was still muddy and I was sure it was crystal clear)!

      Revision is an art and there are many great resources!

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting! I love when my writing causes further thought! <3

  5. This is an amazing post to use as a coach and as a teacher of writing, as it SO demonstrates the power of mentoring and incorporating new learning into writing. I think that we all show students the finished perfect pieces more than we show them the process and I love that you have shared the progression of your work. Great post!

    1. Thanks, Melanie.

      It was pure luck that I had saved my writing every day. (Or was it that I was still in search of a topic to write about?)

      Anyway, two other great sources from that week were Stacey’s blog post at

      https://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com/2014/06/27/flash-drafting/

      and Christina’s at http://www.teachertriathlete.com/2014/06/tcrwp-writing-institute-reflection.html

      Both of those posts also share writing progress through instruction and / or revision!

      This morning was PANIC as I thought I was hitting PREVIEW when I hit PUBLISH accidentally!

      I am going to challenge some teachers this year to also “tell the story of their writing.” We will work on building the need and the will for revision.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

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