#SOL14: Writing Techniques and Goals

Tuesday is the day to share a “Slice of Life” with Two Writing Teachers. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here. Thanks to Stacey, Anna, Beth, Tara, Dana and Betsy for creating a place for us to work collaboratively.

Are you one of the 18 “slicers” who will be dining together this Saturday night at #NCTE14?  If not, check out the slicing posts and become a regular slicer so you will be ready next year!


*  *  *

What’s important in writing?  One answer is,

“Teach the writer, not the writing!” 

For additional information, go to this post!)

So in writing (narratives, informational, arguments), what transfers (#OLW14)?

Is it the hook, the organization, the voice, or the purpose?

               You decide!

share learning









Goals for Professional Development:

I can identify writer’s techniques and goals in order to READ like an author for deeper understanding!

I can use those techniques and goals to dig deeper into the elements of the written genres under review.

I can use author “language” to increase my knowledge of writing techniques and choose quality texts to share with students.

In order to stimulate thinking, create conversations, and pay attention to commonalities and similarities, I chose to introduce writing techniques and goals for informational, argument, and narrative all in the same session.

A.  Informational Texts and Writing Techniques and Goals

Back in July, 2014, I wrote this post about how we used “goals” to look for examples in mentor texts.  Take a minute to reread that post here.

What do we actually do in PD?  We use combinations of National Geographic’s Wolves and Seymour Simon’s Wolves to play bingo with the entire card (3 x 4 array) using the techniques side.  The small rectangular post it covers the technique and allows one to add the page number for the location of the technique in the text. The deliberate use of two texts on the exact same topic where each one has a different style and purpose creates fun conversation for teachers.  Then we wrap up with a “Know/Wonder”(source: What Readers Really Do by Dorothy Barnhouse and Vicki Vinton)  chart to summarize our findings and consider which book would best meet which goals as well as a myriad of reasons why/where/when we would choose which text. (More subtle, less reliance on text features? Find another book where an author has written like Seymour Simon’s Wolves!)  Result = fabulous conversations around common literary techniques and goals using the same “naming words” across all grade levels.

Process:  Everyone looked at both books with a bit more structure (12 cards each) and less independence for this first round.  Goal = identify the techniques and name those that “surprised” the reader.

wolves goals overview








 B. Argument / Opinion Writing Techniques and Goals

In this activity, teachers look at one column of the “techniques for writing arguments” page for texts that had recently been read in class, either by the teacher or by fellow students.  Again, we use a “Know/Wonder” chart to summarize our learnings from this section.

Process:  Each partner group had one of the “I Wanna . . .” series by Karen Kaufman Orloff and illustrated by David Catrow with either the vertical Column A, B, or C from the Argument Techniques cards  to look for specific techniques with room to “jot” evidence for “Know/Wonder” chart. Each partner group has only 4 technique cards to look at books in a “series” by the same author. Goal = discuss patterns the author uses across her series and consider how this information can inform readers AND writers.

2014-11-10 09.59.00


C. Narrative Text Techniques and Goals

In this activity, teachers look at just three of the “techniques for writing narratives” and the narrative “goals page” in order to consider how the authors used dialogue, actions and inner thoughts to achieve their narrative writing goals.  Each participant jots down page numbers and goals on a response sheet and then discusses what they notice in their books.  Whole group debrief is through the continuation of the “Know/Wonder” chart.

Process:  Each partner group had a different narrative. Each group chose one technique they wanted to explore and then following a “write-around”, the book and notes were passed on to the next partner group.  Each group had time to analyze two books. Goal = Readers and writers will recognize that techniques look very different when considering differences in authors’ styles, audience, and purposes for writing.

2014-11-10 10.12.10

As a reader, when do I name those techniques in order to increase my understanding?  As a writer, when do I “try out” those techniques in my own writing?  As a teacher, how does knowledge inform my deliberate choices for Read Aloud texts?

Were there “absolute right answers” for these three types of text reviews?  No!  The focus was conversations among the teachers about the techniques to deepen understanding first and then book selection will continue to be future work. The three different ways to use the techniques were just a beginning point!  Also consider the following three anchor reading standards dealing with “craft and structure” that allow the reader to make sense of “reading”:

Craft and Structure:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.4   Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.5   Analyze the structure of texts, including how specific sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text (e.g., a section, chapter, scene, or stanza) relate to each other and the whole.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.6   Assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text.
What writing techniques and goals do you point out in Read Alouds?  How do you use your knowledge of “author’s craft” to help you select your Read Alouds?

18 responses

  1. Teach the write, not the writing! YES!!! See you at our dinner this weekend! Safe travels!

    1. Michelle,

      So looking forward to meeting you! So much to talk about! So much learning yet to do!!! 🙂

  2. Seems like a wonderful way to engage teachers in learning and get conversations going.

    1. Thanks, Susie!

      I think it is critical for teachers to “talk” about the books they choose to Read Aloud as well as the “Why” and maybe the technique cards can also increase “confidence” in those decisions as well! ❤

  3. Fran I love this! I love how you explicitly explained the process as well as the goal – so important! I would LOVED this type of professional development where we talk and explore text and can transfer our experiences to our own practice! I am almost finished with a blog post about feedback and the read aloud and I can’t wait to get your feedback. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Taylor,
      Thanks so much! Quality Professional Development is so much more than a power point and “stand and deliver” (although I have been known to do that)!

      It’s about the “learning” from our conversations (not my speech)!

      Looking forward to your post!!! 🙂

  4. I gave an abysmal conference about three weeks ago. Why? I realized I taught the writing not the writer. I don’t know how it happened. And, sure, maybe I’m being too hard on myself, but when I walked away I wasn’t sure the kid would be able to transfer what I taught to their next piece of writing. YIKES! After admonishing myself (in my head), I was careful not to do that again!

    1. Stacey,
      Sometimes we are SO hard on ourselves! If I only taught one writer, I would be so very happy! I’m so glad that I finally can articulate what the focus needs to be! After all, we are human so 100% is not really a true picture of our performance. . . Resolving to do better and “getting after it!” is a positive step.


  5. Kitty (Mary Catherine) Donohoe | Reply

    Hi Fran, I think I took Mary’s class with you last June at TC, her advanced information writing class. I love how you organized what she did. I have the amazing sheet for Writers of Information Texts Use Techniques Such As and the goal sheet that I got in her class for 3-8. I am going to share that activity with colleagues next week. I know that the sheets were for middle school. We have also bought the units of study for writing for our whole school. Each teacher has one for their grade level grades K-5. But I wondered how I can get a hold of those same sheets for Opinion and Narrative Writing and for not just 6-8 but K-5?

    1. Mary Catherine,
      Those sheets of techniques and goals are included in the 6-8 units. I have been using them for teacher conversations around those writing terms so that teachers can choose quality mentor texts as well as consider how to “accelerate” student writers. I don’t know if there are any plans to have anything similar for K-5 but you can match those up with the writing characteristics that are in the grade level rubrics and writing examples.

  6. Kitty (Mary Catherine) Donohoe | Reply

    Hi Fran,

    Thank you so much for your prompt response. I love those sheets and am going
    to try and make some similar ones for primary by looking at my Pathways book for the Units of Study.

    Best Wishes from California,
    Kitty (Mary Catherine)

    1. Yes, check Pathways and also check the other material in the “If, Then” book!

  7. Kitty (Mary Catherine) Donohoe | Reply

    Thank you so much. I love your blog! So helpful!

  8. […] #SOL14:  Writing Techniques and Goals […]

  9. […] can read more about the model here and also about CCSS.Writing Anchors 1-3 here for content of a two hour PD session with absolutely 0 power point slides but a lot of talk and […]

  10. […] evidence of my esteem would be in these blog posts:  here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here. Those nine posts share thoughts from the last year that include […]

  11. […] way it could go is through the use of the goal and technique cards from this post. As a writer I could pull out the techniques that I have already taught for the writing types this […]

  12. […] Tuesday is the day to share a “Slice of Life” with Two Writing Teachers. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here. Thanks to Stacey, Anna, Beth, Tara, Dana and Betsy for creating a place for us to work collaboratively. Are you one of the 18 "slicers" who will be dining together this Saturday night…  […]

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