Please welcome Christine Hartzman as our guest host this week! Christine works as an Instructional Coach in the Boyertown Area School District.
Stop, Elaborate, and Listen!
How many times have you said to a student, “add more details”, and the student responds with a string of adjectives in the writing piece? Think about it... did you show your students how to add those details or did you provide a model for students to emulate in their work? In Goal 6, Serravallo shares and explains multiple ways of adding details and improving the quality of details to a student’s writing piece. The fantastic part about Goal 6 is the amount and the variety of strategies that Jen Serravallo shares in this section. No matter what the piece or grade level, there are multiple strategies for your students to try! Some of my highlights or “must try” strategies are as follows:
6.5 “Nudge” Paper
Keep post-its or scrap paper handy for this one! This strategy allows students to try something in a writing piece, but here is the catch - students don’t need to keep it. Whether it be in the writing notebook or in a writing station, students can try a new idea on a separate piece of paper and decide later if the idea should stay or go. Kids need to know and to learn that some ideas can be abandoned while others are “on target.”
Bonus: This strategy works with any type of writing.
6.11 Take Notes from an Illustration or a Photo
If you are trying to figure out how to connect text features and writing, this strategy is for you. Using a photograph or illustration, students can jot quick notes - words or short phrases about what is being learned from the image. Then, students can use the idea in a writing piece to further explain a specific topic.
Bonus: Students are using close reading skills by analyzing the image portion by portion. In addition, this strategy can be used with any genre and with any grade level.
6.24 Use a Refrain
Do your students have a “go to” line in a piece of writing? A line that is repeated over and over again. In this strategy, students look for a line or lines that can be repeated in multiple places in the piece. What I like about this strategy is that the students need to reflect and to question themselves as writers. Questions like, “Does the refrain make my piece better?” , “What meaning does the line communicate?”, and “What can I add on?”, will assist students in making impactful and effective decisions about their writing.
Bonus: This strategy can be utilized with narrative writing, persuasive writing and POETRY!
No matter what the goal or strategy may be, keep in mind to start small -try one or two strategies and then add more to your toolbox. You will feel less stressed and less overwhelmed about knowing everything from Serravallo’s book and your students will respond in the same way in their writing.
Think back to a time when you said, “Add more details!” Which strategy from Goal 6 could you have shared with your student or students? How would that strategy impact their writing pieces?
This week’s post is written by Aileen Hower. Aileen is a member of the South Central Reading Council, is Vice President of KSRA, where she is also the social media coordinator, and the K-12 Literacy/ESL Supervisor for South Western School District. Additionally, she teaches graduate level reading courses for Cabrini University.
In thinking about providing writers voice and choice, to promote engagement in writing, some teachers wonder how to teach organization and structure, which are more formulaic, with less student choice. This is why I appreciate Serravallo’s reminder to “Think of organization and structure as the bones of the piece, or the framing of a building. Without bones, your body is a blog. Without a frame, the building collapses. A writer may have the ability to pick a topic and add in lots of details, but if the frame isn’t there, if the piece isn’t organized, the reader will become confused” (p. 162). Serravallo shared that strategies in this section will help writers match genre and meaning to the structure within which they write.
Also important to address, Serravallo makes sure to offer strategies for how to help students write bold beginnings, mighty middles, and endings that tug at the heart. She shares, “organization and structure is about more than just planning for the overall piece, it also… help[s] writers strengthen the parts of their piece” (p. 162).
I love the progression charts on pp. 163-165 that help teachers know when certain skills can be taught and what comes next.
I was really drawn to all strategies that included oral rehearsal or drawing as a step toward staying organized in one’s writing (5.2, 5.11, 5.23, 5.29). I appreciate letting the writer practice in speaking or drawing before writing words on the page.
I have taught 5.18 Start with a Plan in Mind with third graders. What a powerful way to show writers that not all organizational structures work with all topics!
These are just two types of strategies from this section that I appreciated. Which strategies stood out to you? Which ones were your writers most in need of this school year?
This week’s post is written by Jennifer Shettel. Jen is a member of the Lancaster-Lebanon Reading Council and an associate professor at Millersville University, where she teaches literacy methods courses in the Early, Middle, and Exceptional (EMEE) Education Department.
Goal 4 is all about helping writers develop focus. Common themes that emerged throughout the strategies in this chapter are passion, spirit, and heart. I really loved this emphasis and it caused me to rethink writing in a more passion-driven sense which clearly helps writers hone their focus. Strategies like “Find the Heart” (4.3, p.138), “Find Your Passion to Focus” (4.8, p. 143), and “The ‘So What’ Rule” (4.19, p. 154) all emphasize this approach to writing.
One of my favorite strategies is, “Write a Poem to Try On a Focus” (4.10, p. 145). I thought this was a great idea and something I hadn’t considered using with my writers. Writing your piece as a poem really does help you “zoom in” on the important parts and could clearly help writers develop focus.
Another strategy that caused me to have an ah-ha moment was, “Their Topic, Your Idea” (4.13, p 148). While writing to a prompt can be overdone in our current assessment-driven climate, the idea that real writers sometimes are given a prompt was mind-boggling to me. I wrote, “Prompt writing in the REAL WORLD!!!” in the margins on this page.
What strategies in this chapter were new to you? Which ones might you try before the school year ends?
Emily Reed is our guest blogger this week for Goal 3: Generating and Collecting Ideas. Emily is a Reading Specialist at Dillsburg Elementary in the Northern York County School District. Also, she is the Co-President of the Capital Reading Council and is the Director of Membership Development for the Keystone State Reading Association.
The blank page can be scary to writers at any age. I have heard these words many times. "I don't know what to write." "I don't have anything to write about." I am sure that those words have flowed to your ears as well.
"Tapping into personal passions and interests is a crucial part of becoming independent, self directed lifelong writers." I love how Jennifer focuses on the idea that writing is inside of each one of us. We just need to know how to get it out of us and onto the page.
There are so many wonderful strategies in this section. I can't wait to try them all!
I really want to try 3.4 Photo Starts. The idea of collecting photographs to help spark a story is such an interesting idea. Looking through photo albums always help me remember things I have experienced. I think this would really appeal to my students, at any age. This strategy also could get families involved in the writing process with their children.
3.2 Moments with Strong Feelings
I like the idea of focusing on different feelings and the stories they evoke. We often focus on fun, cheerful moments but the stories tend to be stale. Worried or scared might make for a more exciting story.
3.5 Mapping the Heart
This is a strategy that my students enjoy. We create the Heart Maps and are constantly adding or going back to the hearts for more story ideas.
Once students (and teachers) have multiple ways of discovering the stories inside of them...the words will begin to flow with ease. I really believe using some of these strategies will develop many more confident writers.
Happy writing (and reading).