Thursday, February 21, 2013

Read Like A Writer

A successful way to help my students become better writers is to teach them how to critique pieces or read like a writer. This post builds on an earlier post about using student work as mentor texts. The best way for me to create authentic writing pieces to use during lessons is to use their own work! Their pieces create/inspire mini lesson topics which makes my planning easier.  

Recently I had students read a Time For Kids article on cheetahs and then write a quality (which means organized at this point in the year) paragraph about the information.  I wanted to see if the students would copy facts from the text or attempt to mix different parts of the text together to create writing that flows better. The results were about 50/50. Some still wrote info at face value while others tried to create interest. The best way I can think of to get students to see the big picture of paragraph writing is to have them critique both quality and improving pieces of writing.  I created a checklist for them to follow and then retyped 3 of their classmates paragraphs (usually I photo copy their writing and then cut & paste it to the template, but their paragraphs were to long for that this time). They then read the examples "like a writer" and were able to point out both good and needs improvement examples of organization, repetition, unnecessary facts, facts directly from the text, interesting leads, good word choice, boring words etc... This activity was a positive learning experience because I was not just telling them what to look at. They had to critique while thinking about each writing skill. I have used this "read like a writer" template (their are two templates for singular or plural examples) several times now and the students really like reading each others pieces.
I'd love to hear if you use these in your classroom and how your students respond. Our next writing piece is comparing & contrasting. Posts soon to follow!

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