Tag Archives: wolves

#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!


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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.

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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?

#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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