Teacher's College Reading and Writing Project
All week, students have been reading articles, watching a news feature, and studying a graph all related to the topic of zoos. They have taken their positions as to whether zoos are good for animals or not. This week, we will focus on drafting argument essays that the students have planned in class. Of course, they've also asked for a debate, so we'll see if we can fit that in as well! Be sure to ask your child what position they've taken. It might even help to "argue" with them a little...part of their essay will be refuting the counter-argument.
The Lens of History
Here are important things for you to know as we wrap up our history writing unit:
- History writings are due Wednesday, 3-18 (This was a change from the previous due date of Friday, 3/13.)
- We will NOT print our writings. I can access all student work via Google Docs that students have shared with me. We've been conferring and revising with these documents. The class was game to try to complete this project in a paperless way. :-)
- Be sure to check out the Information Writing Checklist. My grading rubric will cover these same skills. As stated before, I don't expect perfection with these papers. I DO, however, want to see evidence that students tried some of the strategies that were taught in class and worked to improve on 3-4 of the checklist topics.
- Along with revisions this weekend, students should spend some time working on finding sources of information about their hero and jotting down important information and life events. This week I'll send home an organizer that students can use to help them plan out the details they're learning.
Students should now be finished with their information drafts, and we head on to the important task of revising. As I've said before, I do NOT expect students' papers to be perfect. What I am looking for is that these writings reflect learning and growth in the area of information writing. I've included a link below to a checklist of 5th grade skills that I will be looking for in their writing. I'm asking that students pick 3-4 of the items on this list and be sure they have done those very well. By putting just a few of those individual skills into the spotlight for revising this week, I know they'll be very proud of the improvements they are making to their drafts.
Information Writing Checklist
Session 17: Crafting Introductions and Conclusions
Our learning target: Today I am reviewing different introductions in non-fiction texts so that I can see how research writers introduce their writing by explaining how it's structured and by luring readers into their text.
Introduction techniques discussed and practiced in class this week:
- Begin with a unique fact or question
- Start with a direct quote
- Contrast "back then" with "now"
- Set the scene - Put in details to make that part of history become alive and focused
Our conclusion mini-lesson left the following guidelines for students:
Session 16 Using Text Features to Write Well
We enjoyed looking through multiple history books today in search of the best text features. Students will need to include at least one in their information writing. Text features include maps, charts, graphs, pictures, timelines, etc. Students should write a caption to accompany any text features they select for their final document. Along with that, we discussed today how non-fiction writers don't just plop down "any old feature" just to fancy up a page. They select features carefully based on the information they are giving. Most authors also add information within the text that explains the major ideas from the features.
Session 14: Finding Multiple Points of View
Students were asked to be sure to study and include one primary source in their information writing. This could include artwork made at the time of their historical event, a journal from someone living during that time, a historic document relating to the event, etc.
Along with that study of the primary source, students practiced today how to analyze their source for multiple points of view. For example, in the painting of Washington crossing the Delaware, who else is present with him? How are those people in the boat dressed, and how do they look? Are they all soldiers? Students were challenged today to look at their historic event from more than one perspective.
Session 12: Organizing information for drafting
Our learning target today was for students to choose an organizational strategy that will work best for themselves to prepare for writing about their narrowed informational topic. I gave 4 examples and modeled in class, but we are not limited to these. If you know that your child works particularly well with a certain way to organize, support them in their efforts!
- Color-coding or putting symbols on notes and thoughts
- Sticky notes on separate pages to separate sections/paragraphs of the information - Can be done sequentially or by topic
- Outline form - This seemed an easy one to introduce since we are working on organizing main idea and details into outline form right now in Reach.
- Visual organizer - Several kids chose one of these. I apologize that the bottom section (conclusion) was cut off.
Assignment - ALL research/thoughts organized by next Wednesday. Again, I have no preference for the STYLE the kids use to organize. But their work does need to follow a logical sequence or order. The students who have worked diligently in their homework to find additional research and primary sources are probably already filling out an organizer. Students who have neglected any further work will need to complete researching to round out the information they have on their topic before organizing.
Links to the two organizers I provided for students today:
Session 11: The power of primary source documents
Today we had a shortened writing lesson due to finishing up our NWEA testing. Kids really enjoyed learning about primary source documents and viewing some that were related to our 13 colonies writings. As a refresher, primary source documents are writings, stories, journals, artwork, and artifacts that historians use to gather information from a certain time period. They can lend particular credibility to our historical writing, and they serve to help us in delivering more "Woah!"-factor information to our readers.
Today we looked closely at the Boston Massacre obituaries, the Boston Massacre artwork created by Paul Revere, and the writings of a participant in the Boston Tea Party. We discussed how we could use primary sources to help us describe these events, to add quotes and text features.
Here are a few websites that may be helpful as your child works on finding primary source documents that will help them better explain and bring to life the period in history they're currently exploring.
Slavery and the Making of America - PBS
The Constitution and Resources - Library of Congress
Colonial and Early America - Library of Congress
Geography and Maps - Library of Congress
Revolution and the New Nation - National Archives
Search Primary Sources - Smithsonian
Session 10: Drawing information from Mentor Texts
Our Session 10 lesson was about bringing the "WOAH!" factor to our nonfiction writing. Students actually viewed a video about the building of the transcontinental railroad. We watched the clip twice, and students talked about how the filmwriter worked to make this POWERFUL writing.
All students have narrowed down their writing to focus on just ONE facet of the 13 Colonies that they would be most interested in researching further. I've asked them to continue researching at home.
Session 8: Redrafting our Research Reports
What an exciting time in our information writing process! Today I modeled to the students how to carefully read over each paragraph along with the additional fact-finding and thinking added to each section. Then I showed them how to use all of that information to envision what they wanted each improved paragraph to be like. We followed this process:
- Re-read each paragraph
- Look through notes taken and thinking added to each section
- Visualize how the paragraph will look once all of that information is written together
Once we completed that process, students were able to begin writing their final drafts. Most are still working on those. Kids were asked to do this on lined notebook paper, although I do know that 3 of the students already have computer documents in progress. All other students should hand-write their final drafts.
Homework Help: By Friday, students will be turning in their final 13 Colonies writings. These writings should be a great synthesis of the original information that students had at the beginning of the month and all the learning they've done over the past few weeks. These are not expected to be "perfect" documents. (Read: Let your child finish this on his/her own.) You may need to re-state the directions or remind them of the deadline. The purpose of this, though, is for students to see and CELEBRATE how much they've learned about the information writing process.
Tuesday and Wednesday, 1-20 and 1-21-15
Session 5: Writing to Think
Our lesson today was about how writers are thinkers. In non-fiction writing, authors don’t just conduct their research and then list facts they’ve learned along the way. They think...they question...they wonder...and they put forward those thoughts and ideas along with the research to support their thinking. This morning, I modeled reading a section of a book about the 13 Colonies, then stopping and thinking about why the colonists were not sent more equipped for their trip and prepared for the weather. That made me wonder that maybe they didn't have enough information because none of their settlements had been successful. As I read further, we thought about how John Smith rallied the men to work in order to eat. Could it be that the colony would not have survived without each man's help?
We listed at the top of our anchor chart sentence stems that an author might use to show that he/she is thinking deeper about a topic based on new information. Students were asked to try at least one of these in their revisions today in class. At the bottom of the chart, you'll see a few questions. We discussed how it might work to stop periodically during research and ask one of more of these. The answers to these questions lead to writing about that new learning using the stems at the top of the chart.
Homework Help: Tonight, I asked the kids to pick one paragraph of their writing, do some additional research, and come at it from the lens of a researcher. Ask, “What surprises me?” “How does this connect to what I already know?” “So what?” Have those wonderings and realizations be PART of the paragraph along with the facts.
**Added in on Wednesday--I modeled the process of reading a chunk of research, taking notes on new info, and then writing about my further thinking today with a passage about the First Continental Congress. Here were the steps that we laid out to follow today:
- Choose a paragraph that needs more depth
- Find an informational source to expand the paragraph
- Read just a chunk
- Jot notes
- Record your thinking (see anchor chart above)