Tag Archives: Information Writing

#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. 

 

 

#TCRWP: Informational Writing Goals


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.

wolves goals overview

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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).

wolves goals one hook

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

wolves goals two

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

wolves goals three background info

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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
  • Pictures
  • Labels
  • 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?

How does reading like an author and writing like a reader produce riveting informational text across all content areas?
How do you teach students to “effectively select, organize and analyze content”?
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