Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Writing Workshop Session 7 (Research and Information Writing)

Constructing Text with Solid Bricks of Information

* What you need: Article: "Malala the Powerful"
*Make Chart titled "Information Writers Combine a Variety of Information"
*Make Cart titled "Recommended Transition words"

Connection: Think of your best writing EVER (since you started writing)...

Tell a partner....

Did any of you pick your latest chapter?...

Didn't think so. But why not?

 So then it is time to raise the quality of your writing!!!

Today I want to teach you that to write an information text well, the writer constructs the text not with airy words, but with solid bricks of information: 
            • "Quotations"
            • Facts
            • Anecdotes
            • Numbers


Whenever I want to write something I look to mentor texts to provide direction.  So together we are going to read 'Malala the Powerful' by Kristin Lewis and ask ourselves...

What can we notice about the way Lewis constructs her text out of bricks of information?

What does she do that we can do in our own writing?

After reading to the class, divide the class into clusters and have each group examine one portion of the article.  

Then make a class list of the kinds of information included in the mentor text. (page 67/68)

Active Engagement

Reread your chapters, annotating them with marginal notes naming the kinds of information they had already included.  Do you need to revise to include more varied information?

Mid-workshop teaching:

Using transition words 


Some of you may have to do more research before you revise.


Set students up to teach their next chapter to a partner, using a selected text structure.

Examples of text structures:

Homework: Write another chapter, leave wholes where you need specific research, but get the basics of the chapter off to a good start, write at least 2 pages tonight. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Writing Workshop Session 6 (Research and Information Writing)

Session 6: Envisioning Structures to Plan an Information Book

The great writer Annie Dillard describes the work of structuring as building a vision.

She compares it to what a painter does as he stands before a canvas.  

She says "First you shape the vision of what the projected work of art will be."  She says the vision is no marvel thing.  It is apt to be "just a page or two or legal paper filled with words and questions; a terrible diagram, a few books' names in a margin, a doodle..." She calls these "memos from the thinking brain."

 Today I want to teach you that writers of information books construct an image of the text they will write by envisioning several possible ways to use or combine essential structures into a working plan.

Remember when we talked about how while researching a subject you think, "What about this topic is important?" - and that question leads you from one topic to a more focused subtopic - leading to a trail of research? 

Well - that occurs for readers too and that thinking could end up as the start to a table of contents for a book!

Here's one possible table of contents:

A Table of Contents that follows the pathway of Research-

Chapter 1: Teen Activism
Chapter 2: Malala
Chapter 3: Girls being denied Education
Chapter 4: People who are helping the cause

This is just a beginning outline - now you must think about the order and how at makes sense.
Should we start with Malala... and then end with teen activism?

Also - think about the amount of information you have to say about each part.  Do you have enough for a whole chapter?  Should you divide anything or combine chapters?

The table of contents quickly becomes your work plan!

Active Engagement:

Right now, start jotting down a really quick table of contents for the information book you'll be writing.

Now let's talk about different ways to organize (text structures) your book.

Common Structures for Information/Nonfiction Texts 
(write on chart paper)

  • Problem/Solution (chapters on the problem, chapters on the solution)
  • Chronology (what happened first, next, what could happen in the future)
  • List/Boxes (write about one person/project after another, probably handling each similarly)
  • Classification (propose that there are different kinds of a thing, different categories, then discuss each)
  • Definition (claim that something is a word {i.e. a hero}, give examples, contrast with non-examples, to prove your point)
  • Trail of Research
Work with someone from your research group to imagine how your topic could fit into one of these structures... then try a different structure.


You have a tentative Table of Contents and you've imagined a possible structure...

Now what chapter are you most ready to write?

Do you need to draft a 'mini-table-of-contents' for that chapter?

*pass out note sheet on writing information chapters*

Get together with your writing partner Partner 1: You are the writing teacher- Read your partner's chapter.  
Your job is to give your partner a work plan for how they'll revise their chapter.

*Don't forget to complement what you see that's great writing!

Then switch roles.


*Finish/Revise the chapter you've worked on today.
*Revise by writing another draft of your chapter
*Do more research so you are able to write a new chapter tomorrow

Monday, May 9, 2016

Writing Workshop Session 5 (Research-Based Information Writing)

The Trail of Research

Connection:  Do you remember when Jon Stewert interviewed Malala and he asked, "Could I adopt you? Do you think your father would mind?"  Many of you are a bit like Stewert. As you study teen activism, you may not be wondering if you could adopt the activists, but you are probably thinking you would like to adopt their issues!  Often when we do research we get blown away by what we are learning.  We respond like Jon Stewert did: "Can I take this issue on as my own?"When you care about a topic, you follow it.  A good researcher pursues the trail of research, expecting that trail to lead to surprising places.  

Teaching Point:   Today I want to teach you that as writers pursue a research subject, they think, "What about this topic is important?"  That question often leads you to focus on a part of your original topic that leads you along a trail of research.


Let's imagine a trail of research based on the research we have done so far about teen activism.  
Here might be a possible trail you could follow.

teen activism ---> Malala --> girls around the world being denied an education --> people are supporting these girls and providing these girls, globally, with an education 

If you noticed we started with one topic- teen activism- and then that topic led to a sequence of related subtopics, including the issue of girls around the world being denied an education and including people who are working globally to help.

So, researchers start with a broad topic and then often hone in on a more focused subtopic, and then as they research their more focused subtopic, it leads them to put that smaller topic into context. 

Active Engagement:

You are going to create a research trail in groups.  The 1st person says his research topic to the next person as quickly as possible, then the next person focuses that topic, and so on.  Keep going until your group has created a research trail.  We will have a few volunteers share when we are done. 


Next, we will break up into groups so that you can co-research one of a few broad topics.  You'll share the work of research, but you'll each write your own information book and follow your own trail of research within that broad topic.  

Here are possible topics:
  • girls' access to education
  • child labor
  • saving the environment
  • bullying
  • pet abandonment and adoption

Once you are in your subtopic group, find a partner to work with.  You will have just today and tonight to get to know your subtopic better, and as you do your research, your subtopic will evolve.  In the end, you'll each have a book, written about some aspects of your subtopic.


Tomorrow I'll suggest a few possible ways that you can fashion a table of contents for the information book you'll be creating, but you need to come tomorrow ready to make some decisions.  The trails of research you made today will help set you up for possible tables of contents or ways to organize your books.


Tonight you'll continue pursuing your research topic.  After you document your trail of research, make sure you continue researching, taking especially good notes.  Be especially careful to get the facts straight.  Record quotations exactly; get the names and positions right, jot down source information and especially page numbers so others can find the information.

Remember to ask, "What's really important to me about this topic?  and to let that question send you off, exploring related subtopics.

Come tomorrow with your trial of research, as well as notes you have taken to support your trail of research.  

Writing Workshop Session 4 (Research-Based Information Writing)

Structure Sets You Free

Using Prior Knowledge to Flash-Draft Essays

Connection: Tell a story about your own education to illustrate the paradoxical point that structure sets writes fee.

Page 33

Today I want to remind you that writers often write an entire essay in a flash.  To do this, it usually is important to settle on a structure,  on a plan, beforehand.  Writers can turn a box-and-bullets outline into fleshed-out paragraphs in short order.

Teaching and Active Engagement
Together we are going to plan an essay based on my insights about the overall topic.  

Set up a box-and-bullet plan

Teen activists get support in different ways

  • some teen activist get help from adults
  • some teen activist get help from other kids
  • a few teen activists rely only on themselves for support
If you haven't made a box and bullet outline for yourself make one now.

Once writers have planned the structure for an essay, get them to tell a partner their point and how they will elaborate on each, and then have them write.  

Read par of your flash draft on page 34-35

After they have writing for awhile...
Link: Get out of the way and let kids write, reminding them of some pointers.
  • Write in paragraphs 
  • Cite examples from the text, quoting parts of the text
  • Be sure to give several pieces of evidence for a point
  • Once you included evidence, reflect about the ways that evidence supports your point.
Keep Writing!!!

Share: Have students swap essays with a teammate and find moves to "borrow" and offer feedback from improvement.  

Homework: Remember the big picture.  Once reason we study teammates' writing is to make our own work better.  Tonight, spend some time reflecting in your notebooks.  Turn your partner's feedback into a few writing goals for yourself.  Like, if you partner helped you write fancier transitions, you might turn that into a goal.  You don't need 10 or 20! Just a short list-say, 3- is a helpful way to turn a tip into a goal to continue reaching for every time you write.  

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Writing Workshop Session 3 (Research-Based Information Writing)

Preparing to Write Informational Essays

Finding and Supporting Key Points

If you can't yet see a whole picture = you need to research more...

If you can see the whole picture = you are now able to break the topic into key parts - and you are on your way to being able to teach it to someone else

 Today I want to teach you that when writers want to become experts on a topic they read, trying to build a mental model of the whole topic.  This means that if they read about one example or one part of the topic, they think, "How does this go with what I know about the whole topic?"

(Model thinking and writing about a topic on a document camera - see page 24)

With a little thinking and writing you can grow an idea about one bit of a topic (one ear of the elephant) that might actually pertain to more of the whole topic (the whole elephant).

Active Engagement:
Turn to your writing partner and talk about the steps we took that got us to uncover what may be a key, overall point.

*Add to the Power-Learning and Note Taking Chart*

  • Freewrite about the topic, trying to grow insights, then see if the insights are applicable or true to the topic as a whole, or just to one case in point.

Continue researching and growing the big picture about this topic in general.  Next you'll be flash drafting an information essay on teen activism.

*Review the pointers and jot notes in the margins to remind yourself of whatever tips you think you need to remember

One theory I heard was the idea that teen activist change themselves, becoming different as a result of doing their work.  What a theory!

Another one I saw was the idea that one way teen activism begins is with a single moment of inspiration

Remember - once you have an idea about teen activists, write about it and tell a few examples... and more importantly - think of a way you can BUILD on that idea forming KEY POINTS

Let's look at the idea that one way teen activism begins is with a single moment of inspiration...

We can build on this by saying:

Teen activism begins in different ways.
  • A single moment of inspiration 
  • Repeated personal experiences with the issue
Let's take the theory that teen activism often involves a group of people working together to do something good...

The next key point could be that teen activism also involves people who work by themselves.

Teen activists work in different ways.
  • Some teen activists work together in small groups
  • Other teen activists work alone

Here's another key point:
Teen activist get support in different ways

  • Some teen actives get support from adults
  • Some teen activists get support from other kids
  • A few teen activists rely only on themselves for support
Think about your first key point and see if you can build off that point by finding another one that is closely related to it.  See the following list to help you!

Moving from One Key Point to a Plan for Logical Informational Essay

  • If you've noticed ONE way (teens overcome obstacles or change people), what might be ANOTHER WAY?
  • If you found ONE cause or reason (for teen activism), what might be ANOTHER cause or reason?
  • If you found ONE effect (that teen activism created), what might be ANOTHER effect?
  • If you found ONE source of support (for teen activists), what might be ANOTHER source of support?
  • If you found ONE trait (of teen activists), what might be ANOTHER?
Homework: Continue to write and research, locating evidence to develop key points

Work on matching up each of your key points with the text evidence that led you there.  Take the texts home and mark them up - or write your key points in your writers notebook - adding in examples of evidence

Monday, May 2, 2016

Writing Workshop Session 2: Research-Based Information Writing

Reading for a Wide View of a Topic

Last night you did some research.  You'll need those notes now.  You may have studied several people, but for now, focus on just one.

People who write what are called profiles of people suggest that there a few questions that are especially important to ask of any person you are studying.

Questions that Writers of Profiles Ask of Their Subjects
  • What is especially significant or compelling about the person?  What is his or her legacy or contribution?
  • What is surprising about the person?  Any oddities?
  • What story, anecdote, scene captures the person?

Take one of them and use that question to get you thinking some new thoughts about the young activist you researched.

After we write for a few minutes, we will share our thoughts.

Teaching Point:  

Today I want to teach you that before writers write about any subject, they first take in a broad cross section of information about that topic, making sure to read different kinds of materials from different kinds of sources.  Writers write to explore the topic, often asking themselves these focusing questions:  What patterns do I notice?  What are the important things to say about this overall topic?

Getting oriented to a topic does not mean reading something and then quickly jumping to conclusions.  You don't want to just settle on one little aspect and believe that you have a good grasp on the bigger topic.  

Here is an analogy, a little story, to explain what I mean about research.

(Read parable on p.16)

Advice for you...

As information writers, as you get set to write about a topic, always try to make sure you get lots of different points of view, lots of different sources and kinds of reports so that you can see the whole "elephant"--the big picture.  

Active Engagement:

Imagine you have a slew of articles and websites before you, and your goal is to overview the whole elephant, how do you get started?

Share your thoughts.

(Add new bullet points to note-taking chart) 


Continue to research teen activism, using the text set that you were given last night, as well as other resources you may have found.  You'll have today and tomorrow to take in a broad swath of information.  This work will set you up so that you can write broadly about this topic of teen activism.  You can also begin to think about a specific issue you may decide to focus on later in this unit.


Right now compare your method of note-taking with the system that kids sitting near you have used.
There will be no talking during this time.
Pass your notebooks to you right.  Study your classmates notes.  What did she or he do that you could try?  
Now pass your notes to the right again and study the new set of notes you are holding.

(add new tips to anchor chart- p.20)


Tonight, continue to read and take notes.  Your goal is to take at least 2 more pages of notes tonight.  It is important you get a sense of as many parts of this topic as possible.  Also, stop and jot your thinking - your analysis- about what you're learning.  Be thinking especially about what you might teach others about this topic.