Asking Questions

Nov 4, 2009 by

Writing Trait/Strategy: Adding details; organization Description: Some young writers have difficulty clearly conveying their message on paper. They know what they want to write about but struggle to capture their thoughts on paper in a way that is clear to the reader. This mini-lesson helps students see the need to clarify their information and include enough details for the reader. Model this technique by writing a “story” on the overhead or chart paper: My brother has a dog. Ask students what they think of your story. Most will say that you need to write more. Ask students what they want to know about your dog. They will ask questions such as, “What is its name? Where did you get it? What does it look like?” Write a second draft of your story, including answers...

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Planning Sheets

Nov 4, 2009 by

Writing Trait/Strategy: Adding details; organization Mentor Text Suggestions: Your own modeled writing—see description below The Quilt Story by Tony Johnston Laura Charlotte by Kathryn Galbraith Knots on a Counting Rope by Bill Martin, Jr., The Hickory Chair by Lisa Fraustino Every Friday by Dan Yaccarino A Chair for My Mother by Vera Williams Description: To give students more practice in asking questions to help clarify their writing, I often use this technique as a brainstorming tool. We begin by making a list of all the questions we think the reader might want to have answered in the piece. Students answer the questions either orally or on a planning sheet before beginning their rough drafts. When using planning sheets for this prewriting activity, I always model how to go from the completed planning sheet to...

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Show Don’t Tell

Nov 4, 2009 by

Writing Trait/Strategy: Ways with words; creating mind pictures for the reader Mentor Text Suggestions: Night Noises by Mem Fox Widget by Lyn Rossiter McFarland The Painter by Peter Catalanotto Dad and Me by Peter Catalanotto Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes Description: Mark Twain said, “Don’t say the old lady screamed. Bring her on and let her scream.” In other words, show, don’t tell the reader what is happening. Instead of telling the reader that the character is happy, excited, angry, or scared, the writer should show it. When reading aloud picture books to students, look for examples where the author shows rather than tells. For example, in Night Noises by Mem Fox, instead of telling the reader that Lily Laceby is old, Fox shows us: “Her hair was as wispy as cobwebs in ceilings. Her...

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Seesaw Pattern

Nov 4, 2009 by

Writing Trait/Strategy: organization; structure Mentor Text Suggestions: Someday by Eileen Spinelli When I Was Little: A Four-Year-Old’s Memoir of Her Youth by Jamie Lee Curtis I Am the Dog, I Am the Cat by Donald Hall Rosie and Michael by Judith Viorst Grandad Bill’s Song by Jane Yolen That’s Good! That’s Bad! by Margery Cuyler Fortunately by Remy Charlip My Mom Travels a Lot by Caroline Fellar Bauer Tough Boris by Mem Fox Description: The seesaw pattern is a simple pattern to teach young students, especially when you have mentor texts to model its use. Read aloud one of the books listed above and explain to students that it has a special pattern. After reading the book, ask students what pattern they noticed. Explain that this is called a seesaw pattern and is a...

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Paint a Picture

Nov 3, 2009 by

Writing Trait/Strategy: Word Choice; Sentence Fluency Mentor Text Suggestions: Come On, Rain! by Karen Hesse The Storm Book by Charlotte Zolotow Twilight Comes Twice by Ralph Fletcher White Snow, Bright Snow by Alvin Tresselt All the Places to Love by Patricia MacLachlan Hello Ocean by Pam Munoz Ryan Description: To introduce this technique, select a picture of something from a catalog or magazine. Without showing it to the students, tell them that you have a picture of an “amazing car”, “a cute puppy,” “an awesome bicycle,” or whatever. Ask students to form a mental image of it and then draw a picture of it. If they ask for more details, give them adjectives like neat, great, fantastic, delicious. After giving them time to draw, show them the actual picture and compare. Students will realize...

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