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teaching nonfiction writing

Our students know so little if…

When our students read just one source on a topic, I would argue they still know almost nothing about that topic or issue. I know you know this. It’s not until they read, view, listen to multiple sources on that topic that their understanding is transformed. This is not a new point. My argument is that students should …Read more

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Orally rehearsing with key words can boost writing

Do your students struggle to compose sentences about nonfiction topics that make sense or sound right? Do they lack structure at the sentence and paragraph level? Here’s a few tricks I’ve been trying with small groups of late-early and transitional stage readers. As part of a conversation generate key words they will use to orally …Read more

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Writing with Mentor Texts – App Reviews in Grades 6-8

Is anybody else sick of the five-paragraph essay? The book Writing with Mentors (Marchetti & O’Dell, 2015) was so refreshing to read as I ponder how to keep students excited about reading and writing analytically. The authors provide insight into how we can engage students in writing for authentic purposes in a variety of non-five-paragraph …Read more

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What about using the language of text structure to help students compare texts?

Teaching the language of text structures can help students compare and contrast texts more easily. I gave a lesson to a 5th/6th grade class a few weeks ago with two current event articles on drones. The first article “How can you get a bird’s eye view?” from Wonderopolis is written in an enumerative (or descriptive) …Read more

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The Pasta Analogy-Helping Students Determine What’s Important

Do your students struggle with determining what is important when reading informational texts? Are they unsure of what to underline and annotate? I remember one fifth grade student saying, “Well, I underlined the whole text because it was all important!” Two suggestions. 1. Make sure there’s a VERY CLEAR PURPOSE for reading & determining what …Read more

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Liberate your students! In the beginning, give them the main idea!!!

Do your students hesitate when you ask, “What is the main or central idea of this source?” Why? There may be a couple of reasons. Many students have not had enough experience with identifying main ideas to identify them easily.  And they may have only a superficial understanding of key vocabulary in a main idea. …Read more

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Guided writing lesson – a productive struggle

I had the honor of teaching a small 2nd grade group of students a guided writing lesson after we had done a guided reading lesson with an excerpt from an A to Z text, George Washington Carver, Level O. In a previous post, I wrote about the first lesson – close reading of an excerpt …Read more

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Easier Main Ideas – Think Traits of Historical Figures

I’ve been thinking about how we can help students identifying multiple main/central ideas in a text. Traditionally we’ve focused on identifying one main idea, but beginning in 5th grade (and continuing in 6th and 7th), the Common Core Standards for Reading Informational Texts expect students to be able to “determine two or more main ideas …Read more

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Why I wrote this book…because I was frustrated…

Is anybody overwhelmed by the idea of figuring out a text’s complexity??? In our field, there’s a lot of talk going on about this and a lot of terms flying around like levels of meaning/reasoning/density, structure, language conventionality, vocabulary, knowledge demands and so forth. There are also a slew of rubrics out there that attempt …Read more

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“Apples to Apples” to teach argument/opinion writing

A few weeks ago, I used the game Apples to Apples with a group of sixth graders to have fun thinking about the concept of “reasons” and “evidence” as it relates to argument writing. They had a blast and I learned a lot about what they were struggling with conceptually and was able to coach …Read more

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