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Sunday, January 4, 2015

Writing, Part 3 (An Overview of Informative Writing)

Remember that time you asked your students to write paragraphs explaining an experiment or that time you asked them to describe traditional homes of a Native American tribe? We ask kids to use informative/explanatory writing all the time. But do we really teach it?

That's the question I asked myself this year. Yes, I do teach my students research techniques and how to write introductory, supporting, and concluding paragraphs. We work on thesis statements and topic sentences and detail sentences. But . . . I realized that I was only asking them to describe or explain, totally ignoring alternative text structures. This year, I resolve to change that!
  • Exploring Nonfiction Text Structures - Before I ask them to write any more informative pieces, we will explore nonfiction text structures. MsJordanReads offers a free reference sheet to help with this.
  • Reading and Writing Paragraphs with Various Text Structures - Next, we will read and then write using each text structure. To save valuable time and link content areas, I've decided to have students read and write about plants, the topic we'll be studying in science at that time.
  • Teaching Formal Research Strategies - As we prepare to write formal research papers, I'll teach them how to take notes, create outlines, and organize works cited. We'll discuss which sites to use (and not use) using the CARS Checklist. And this year, we'll also discuss which text structures to use.
  • Writing a Multi-Page Research Paper - Students' research papers will also relate to science (animal adaptations unit). In groups of three, they will choose three related animals, each of whom lives in arctic, temperate, or tropical climates. They will each select one of the three animals, conduct research, and write a formal paper. As a culminating activity, they will also collaborate to write a paper comparing and contrasting the three animals then determining cause and effect for the animals' differences.
Our fourth grades will take notes on a variety of note
sheets like these.

Research writing makes kids feel accomplished - - - especially when they know how to use a variety of text structures!