Monday, June 5, 2017

Session 15

Studying Digital Mentor Texts

Writers, remember when I told you that over 571 websites are created every MINUTE, each one allowing writers to share information at lightening speed?!

You've spent weeks researching and writing -now you are all experts on a new topic - and you're ready to share that knowledge with a wider audience!

Over the next several days you will create a website or a digital slide show presentation, so you will become activists yourselves!

 Today I want to remind you that when writers begin a new writing project, they often study mentor texts to get a vision of the whole kind of writing.  They also look at the smaller things an author has done in that genre or format!  Then they use their insights to make a blueprint for their own writing.

Let's look at a website together

We want to look at different aspects of the writing so we can use our writing checklist to guide us.  Let's start with structure...

Here are some questions to guide discussion:
*How is the information laid out?
*What information is presented first?
*Is there a lot of text on the home page?
*How is information organized?
*When are things summarized? 
*When are are things elaborated?
*How do authors effectively connect all their information?

Active Engagement:
Look at a PowerPoint Presentation

Questions to guide discussion:
*How does the author lay out information on the page?
*What structural patterns do you notice?
*How does the author elaborate on subtopics?

Talk about what you notice - and WHY the authors might have made the choices they did.


Continue to study these two types of writing.

Examples of different websites and power points will be available around the room.  Make sure you look at a few of each before making a decision on what yours should be.


Take a look at your information book chapters.  Let your chapter titles guide the planning of your new format.  Then decide what written and visual information will best teach what you want to convey either through links or slides.

Now that you've decided what to create, begin by making a prototype of your website or presentation.  Use ideas you've seen today.  Sketch out a plan for each page in your presentation or website.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Session 13 (Research)

Quoting With a Purpose in Mind


Why do you think writers use quotations? "Huh?"

Today I want to teach you that when writers get ready to write final drafts, they not only have a plan in their heads and some rehearsal under their belts, but they also have their quotations at their sides.  They use each quotation for a purpose as they write their final piece.  

You have a list of quotations-at least a few that you think are important to use in your writing.  

You will write your ideas and then pull in the quotations as you go, when they can help your writing, where they serve their purpose.

Here is a list of some quotations:

I think about where the quotations will come, in my plan.  What will they do for my writing?

If I started out with 'Organizations that Help' -I would need a quote that serves the purpose of showing an organization that helps this cause.  I think the following quote goes well with that because it shows how one organization is helping.

'Since 1993, Camfed has educated girls and supported young women to help tackle poverty in rural communities. More than 2,420,000 children in the poorest areas of Ghana, Malawi, Tanzaia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe have benefited from our innovative education programs.' (

Now I can begin writing the chapter, looking back at the plan and quote I've chosen to incorporate first.  Here is what was written...

Active Engagement:
Time to get started doing what I just showed you.  Look through your notes and decide which quotations to use for each part.

When writing draw on everything you know as you draft-not just what you know about using quotations.  Look at the chart...
Writing Information Text Well  in the room.

Add the following:

  • Incorporate quotations to:
    • Bring a person to life
    • Build an idea
    • Highlight information
    • Give authority to your writing

Mid-Workshop Teaching:

Some of you may be having trouble linking your quotes to the rest of your writing. 

Remember: Writers don't just guide their readers up to the quotation.  They also guide the reader out  of the quotation-by explaining it.  In other words writers don't just include a quotation  and then move right away to the next thought.  Writing does not work well that way.  Instead, writers nearly always add analysis or explanation after the quotations; in most cases they say why the quotation is in there. Writers even add adjectives about the quotation as they lead into explaining...

     Try These:

  • According to the article__________________
  • This shocking fact reveals________________
  • In the text ___________by __________the author states,"
  • This quote hightlights____________________

Using students work talk about different ways to introduce and give background information on a source.   

Polish Writing As A Way To Go Public
Tonight you will polish your writing for the celebrations.  We will celebrate by having a special book exhibit where you can share your competed books with everyone in the class.  you will want to bring your best writing as you go public.  This is your chance to get your message out to the world and communicate all the thinking and crafting your have been rehearsing for the last several weeks. You will harness all of the revisions and editing strategies you have been practicing tonight as you prepare your books.  The celebration swill be your opportunity to let it shine.  But if you want to make your book gleam during the celebration, you have to do some serious polishing tonight.  Use all you know -from this unit and from earlier writer workshops-and do the best work you can!!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Session 12 (Research)

Planning Ready-to-Go Chapters/Introductions

Have you ever heard the saying:

"When you're done, you've just begun"

Revision should be happening in your minds as you are writing all the time!

The writing cycle you should go through as you are writing:


rehearse, draft, revise...rehearse, draft, revise...

Revising Structure:

Take a moment and rethink about the structure you've chosen to use in your book.  Is there one that you could try that may work better?

Common Structures for Information/Nonfiction Texts 
  • 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

 Today I want to teach you that every chapter (and the book as a whole) needs to be framed by an introduction. That means at the start of your book you'll have an introduction AND at the start of every chapter you'll have an introduction.

Here's a chart that can help you~

One way an Introduction can go:

1. Hook (get them interested, get them engaged!)
2. Background (offer context, bigger picture of why it matters)
3. Guide (Let them know how the writing will go, what the parts are)


"Imagine being as young as Malala but with the courage and the power to rally voices of support across the world! It makes one realize that we can all make a real difference in the world."


"Now that people have heard Malala's story and others like hers, they have banded together to create organizations to help girls get a great education."


"This chapter outlines three major organizations that help, what individual activists are doing, and what you and I can do to help too."

This chart offers more help on writing introductions~

Example of how you can add emotional descriptions:

"That morning, as Craig flipped through the Toronto Star in search of the comics, he was struck by a story.  A raw, but courageous story of a boy his age named Iqbal."

"Santos Polendo remembers his first day of work like it was yesterday, he was just 6 years old."

"The weather was terrible," says the 16-year old migrant farmworker from Eagle Pass, Texas, "I had blisters on my hands.  My back was hurting.  My head was hurting.  I never thought I was going to make that my life."

Today you will continue to work on your books.  Practice cycling through the entire writing process very quickly -rehearsing, drafting, revising- in your minds so that you can crank out your writing in near "ready-to-go" condition.

Active Engagement:

Now look at your introductions of each chapter - rehearse - draft - revise to make them come to life!

Continue to rehearse - draft - revise your chapters getting them "Ready - To - Go"!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Session 11 (Research)

Session 11: Using Text Features to Strengthen Writing


Nonfiction can be like a party for your eyes!  Your eyes can dance across the page because there is so much to look at!  When the page in a nonfiction book contains lots of text features, you not only stay super engaged, but you end up learning about the topic in lots of different ways.  You tend to be more knowledgeable about a topic when you have learned about it through lots of channels: pictures, numbers, charts, maps, diagrams, text boxes- the works.  

When writing an informational text, using text features can help to teach information and to make central ideas prominent.  

Look at how the following sections from an informational text are set up.

Teaching and Active Engagement: 

Today, in small groups, you are going to study mentor texts and list all different types of text features  you find. Jot what the text feature looks like and what it does--how does this particular text feature teach information about the topic in a special way?

(Record what students found on chart paper p. 101)

Let's practice adding text features into a piece of writing.  

We shouldn't just randomly pick a text feature to try and add.  Let's look over this draft and see if there is additional related information we could teach in a new and special way, using a different form of a text feature.  

  • Add a photo or illustration of some of the destruction that is described in the beginning of the chapter- the reason that they begin with a description is for the reader to really picture this devastation in their mind
  • Add a subtitle underneath image
  • Add shocking statistics about girls who are denied an education and put it in the form of a text box-this will help highlight this information for the reader


Take out your own drafts and plan a few text features to insert into your writing.  Make sure you are thinking, "What text features might I use so that I can teach information in new and special ways?  What could I add to my writing?  What could I reformat?"

Turn and tell the person beside you what you are thinking and explain why you are picking that feature and where you might place it on the page.  

Continue to plan text features for your chapters.  You might want to add features on Post-its or on scrap pieces of paper that you tape on.  Others might need to totally reformat a chapter.

Reference the chart Writing Information Texts Well


  • Make your sentences more complex so you sound more authoritative
  • Use text features purposefully, to teach information in new and special way


Let's end the class today by sharing our text features by taking a text-feature feedback walk.  Not only are you going to study each other's work, but you're going to jot down some feedback that you'll share later.  Each of you need to set up a praise and pointers text-feature exhibits and feedback sheet.

When giving feedback, make clear compliments on their praise sheets and concrete, helpful tips on their pointers sheet.


Continue to revise your draft for text features and cohesion, referring to the "Praise and Pointers' feedback sheets you collected from your gallery walk.  You may have noticed amazing text features created by your classmates that gave you great ideas to incorporate into your own text features.  It is fine to borrow ideas from each other.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Session 10 (Research)

Lifting the Level of Sentence Complexity


Instead of drafting and revising new chapters, as you have been doing for a few days now, you will be rereading to edit for sentence complexity.  

In 2 days, you will go from not having a book to having one.  It will take a lot of intense work so I will keep this mini lesson  brief.

Today you will edit and recopy your chapters-doing that onto loose leaf, one sided.  You will cut the draft apart to format it tomorrow and put it into books.  

To edit, your writing needs the 3Cs.  You already worked toward the two Cs-making your writing clear and correct.  Today you will use the Information Writing Checklist to help you edit.  
**Give students copies**

Today I want to teach you that beyond clear & correct, it is also powerful to know how to make your sentences more complex. One ways to lift the level of your sentence complexity is to rewrite patches of your writing so that your sentences resemble mentor sentences.

This writer, Emily Richmond, uses different kinds of punctuation to make her sentences more complex.  After seeing how she does this, I want us to push ourselves to write a sentence in a similar way.

There is a variety of punctuation in this sentence.  I notice a comma and a dash.  But I don't want to just count the punctuation.  I want to notice how the punctuation works in the sentence.  

Let's looks at the dash...I notice that before the dash, the author seems to be stating an idea she predicted.  Then after the dash, the writer seems to show how her idea changed in a positive way.  The dash helps show that unexpected idea, while also giving new information.  First she says she expected a good turnout and then she writes about the bigger response she actually received.  

Example: Blue sentence is a draft sentence
Green sentence is how they made the sentence more complex!

Active Engagement:
* If you want another example use the one on page 92

Take a piece of your own information writing and make it look like the examples we just studied.  

You now have a list of strategies to apply when using punctuation to make sentences more complex.  

Go and continue editing and revising your work. 

Mid-Workshop Teaching: Pronoun Agreement
Pronouns are words that take the place of someone or something's name, or a group of people or things, words like I, me, you, us, our and he, she it, they.

Here is the issue: some of your pronouns are not agreeing.  That means you are accidentally matching singular pronouns like he/she/it to plural pronouns like they/their/ours. Here is a quick example of the mistake:

If you donate money to the cause of girls' education, most people will feel that they did something worthwhile.

See how I used both you and they in the same sentence? here is a quick way to revise a sentence like that:

If you donate money to the cause of girls' education, you will feel like you did something worthwhile.  

Edit with Partners Using a checklist
**Pass out to students

Tomorrow you will be spending time putting your books together, imagine how they will look and what text features you will choose to teach readers more about your topic.  You will need to take your information chapters home with you, continue fixing up your drafts, and then make a final copy.  Remember that your goal is to have 4-6 chapters done for your book.  

To fix up your drafts, read them with your editing checklist in hand and fix up anything that needs fixing up.  One specific lens you could use is spelling.  You might take a moment to take advantage of every resource you have: knowledge of spelling patterns, dictionaries, the Internet, family experts,, and so forth, to make sure all of your words are spelled correctly.

Use everything you know about making your writing clear, correct & complicated  to bring a clean copy for tomorrow.  We are going to plan our book with text features! 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Session 9 (Research)

Make Anchor Chart: Writing information Texts Well *pg 80

Today we are going to learn another tip that will help you write information texts well

Today I want to teach you that writing well often requires writing long.  Anecdotes, stories, images, dialogue; these don't do well being squished together.  when you write long, you can write with details that bring a text to life, and those details are everything.

Retell the story about Donald Murray
(See page 81)

Tell about other famous writers and writing teachers who place equal emphasis on writing with detail...
 "Details matter... they bring the scene to life"
                       Roy Peter Clark

In order to write with detail, read like magnets - letting quirky, surprising detail to stick to them.

Active Engagement:

Practice reading for details.  As I read, pay attention to details that you noticed that I added to this part of my draft.

*Add to Writing Information Texts Well Chart*


Think about how much detail you've included in your writing.  Make notes on how you plan to revise to add more details.

Start by rereading one of your chapters. Notice where it's bear and general --think about what might be needed to add more 'meat!'


Compare your writing to the information writing checklist to help assess your own work.


Your books need to be done in about 4 days from now.  Tonight, and tomorrow in class you will need to decide what new chapters you need to write, and what chapters need to be revised. 

Your goal is to have at least 4-6 chapters done to complete your book in time before our celebration.

Over the next four days- balance between writing and revision.  Make a plan for yourself and make decisions on how to make your information book the best it can be!


Monday, May 22, 2017

Bend 1 Session 8 (Research)

Session 8: Research- Gathering Specific Information and Gathering Meaning


Think about a time when you had to do scavenger hunt and you had a list of items to collect.  Or a time you went grocery shopping and had a list of items to buy.  How did you read those lists? Hopefully, you are envisioning what it feels like to read with specific needs in mind. 

Teaching Point:

Today I want to teach you that when you want to construct information texts that are built with a variety of precise bits of information, it helps to read with an eye toward collecting all those different kinds of information.

Think about the writing you have done so far.  Your writing plan should tell you the sorts of information you will need to collect.  But, you also want to keep in mind the point that you want to make.  


If you are aiming to show that the problem of girls being denied an education is something that crosses many continents, and you examples all come from one vicinity, you'll be looking for examples from other parts of the world.  

*When the writer knows the central idea he is advancing, the writer can be selective reader.  

Active Engagement: 

Continue to research and draft.  Your goal is to have 3 chapters completed, in draft form.  

  • Use Power Learning and Note-Taking Chart 
  • Collect more research making sure to read with an eye for the information you need
  • Think about the logistics of your note-taking- how will you organize your information so that you can just plop your notes right into the draft you already began (and into the plans for yet more drafts) Ex: You could number notes according to which paragraph you will put them in
  • Think of what structure you will use in your paragraphs (ex: compare/contrast) refer to handout
  • Researchers always carry a healthy amount of suspicion as they read sources- make sure your sources are reputable 
  • Use transition words-refer to handout
  • Use information writing checklist


Do some of your own thinking...sometimes it works to add a little thinking to each bit of research you collect.  You can simply write:
  • This is important because...
  • This makes me wonder why...
  • This connects to...


Teach someone about your topic.  This will help you to get a good handle on the content and talking about what you've learned is helpful.  


Revise your draft of chapter 3.  


Thursday, April 27, 2017

Bend 1 Session 7 (Research)

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 holes where you need specific research, but get the basics of the chapter off to a good start, write at least 2 pages tonight. 

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Bend 1 Session 6 (Research)

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

Bend 1 Session 5 (Research)

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.