Sunday, June 29, 2014

Waking Up Our Sentences: NonFiction Writing

Writing has been a struggle for my 5th graders this year.  They have made a lot of progress since day one. It's pretty amazing to compare their writing samples from the first month to right now.  Many of them were unable to write a five paragraph writing piece at the beginning of the school year. Now that we have climbed that hurdle, it is time to jazz up our writing and make it more interesting.

I love these two books written by book by Joann Portalupi and Ralph Fletcher:

Nonfiction Craft Lessons, Teaching Informational Writing K-8

Craft Lessons, Teaching Writing K-8

My students were working on their nonfiction research essays. I decided to give them some autonomy and choice in their topics. I find that too many times as teachers, we give them the topic they will research. They LOVED being able to choose a topic on anything in the whole wide world that interested them. Of course they had to run it by me first. It was fantastic! My kids were interested in so many diverse topics and allows me to read many different papers instead of the same research topic 30 times. 

I taught a quick mini lesson that focused on making their sentences lively while writing a nonfiction piece. My students struggle with making their nonfiction writing informational, yet entertaining and not dry. They tend to all start off with the same topic sentences and so forth. Ralph Fletcher has a great lesson in which students explore and ponder an example of a terrific piece of nonfiction writing before they attempt to create their own. 

Fletcher's craft lessons are specific to topic and use resources such as picture books or excerpts of text (located in the appendix). For this lesson I copied the excerpt "Predator!" We discussed that it's not enough to teach and give information to the reader...we need to give our writing some oomph! We discussed how sometimes we write sentences that are boring and put us to sleep...thus we need to wake them up! 

My students closely read the expert first for the flow. Then they read it again silently and made annotations in regards to what made the writing interesting. As a class we discussed their findings and charted it (they copied it down in their writer's notebooks). 

I then had my students go back and read their drafts of their nonfiction writing. They were to go back and think about how they can change their sentences and wake them up! 

It was a great activity, they really seemed to grasp the idea. The revisions they came up with in their own writing showed that. 

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  1. I have and love both of these books. They are such great resources for teachers. Thank you for sharing how you use it with your students.

    1. Aren't they the best! I wish they were introduced to me a lot earlier in my teaching career!

  2. Did I read this correctly? You still have a month until summer break? How is that possible? AHHH!!! I love allowing my students the option to choose their own topics. I need to check out this book. Thanks for the suggestion, Chelsea!
    Rockin' and Lovin' Learnin'

    1. Oh my goodness! Lol...I wrote that post a few months back and never got around to posting it until now. That is how busy I was. I just went in and revised it. I've been relaxing since June 5 (our last day of school)! Both of these books are great...I always use them! Clyde (my newest pooch) like them to, as he ate one of them. Crazy mutt!

  3. Thank you for sharing this book! My students struggle with adding voice to their nonfiction pieces as well. I'll definitely be checking this out!

  4. So, I bought those books on Amazon. You are a bad influence! ;) Thanks for recommending it! I think it will really help me out because I'll be teaching writing in grades 4-6 next year!


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