The Teachers College Reading and Writing Project’s Units of Study have been in K-5 classrooms for over a year and the grades 6-8 units were published about six weeks ago. The range of resources for each grade level has more than enough content to help both teachers and students be better writers of all three text types in the Common Core while significantly upping the ante for informational text and therefore meeting CCSS Anchor Standard 2. “Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.”
What are some goals for information writing?
Here’s a look at just 3 of the goal areas that we explored during the June TCRWP Writing Institute. If you are fortunate to be attending an advanced institute in August, you will have an opportunity to see these materials up close and personal. If you have the new middle school units, you already have these materials in your hands.
First of all, understand that we were a group of educators representing grades 3-8. Some of these ideas were familiar in texts that we read. But many of them were unfamiliar when thinking about “using them” in our own writing. Identifying how and why “authors” used these goals was an important first step for “Reading like an author” before we practiced these in our own writing!
Our reading study was around wolves. Here is one text that we used and the first three of the goals that we talked about.
Our first task: Look to see how this author met Goal #1 Hook the Reader.
We turned to the double page spread of the text (pages 1 and 2).
Read these pages.
What hooks you the reader?
Which technique(s) help the writer meet his goal?
- Is it the question?
- Is it the picture?
- The actual “stance” of the wolf?
- Is it the description that includes the “lonely howl”, “more voices”, and “chorus of howls”?
Is this dull, boring information writing?
Goal # 2 Introduce new topic/subtopic/person
Is “Wolves All Around” a new subtopic?
Does this page meet that goal?
What techniques help meet the goal?
- Is it the heading?
- Is it the fact that the “print format” of the heading is now predictable?
- Is it the placement at the top left of the double page spread?
Again, is this dull, boring information writing?
Goal # 3 Give background information
Read this double page spread.
Does the information qualify as background information?
As readers we find out where wolves live (all over the world), what the most common wolf is (gray wolf), and the fact that there are many kinds of gray wolves that are “not just gray.”
What technique (s) does the author use”
- Factual statements
- Comparisons in pictures
Was this dull, boring information writing?
In all of these examples, multiple techniques were used to ensure that the reader understood what the writer was saying. These combinations included words, phrases, sentences, illustrations, headings, titles and additional print features. As expert readers, are we paying attention to the cumulative effect of ALL of those techniques? How do we share that expertise with our students?