The five day writing cycle I use starts with explicit instruction on the text type. Day 2 of our writing cycle is for teaching pre-writing activities: brainstorming and completing graphic organizers. On day 3 we will use the graphic organizer to write together; days 4 and 5 will be for conferences and publishing.
I reviewed the steps for writing an informational paragraph (W.1.2) that we had covered the previous day. In the resource section you can see the chart we posted in the room to use as a resource. and wanted to teach my students how to complete a graphic organizer that would help them when they were writing. After reminding them that this week they were learning to write informational paragraphs, we began by rereading the chart we had created and posting on the wall. I told them that we were going to write about our city (This matched our weekly selection, but this cycle can be used with any prompt or topic). They turned to their partner and talked for about three minutes about their city. I had suggested they talk about places they go to and things they see while walking and driving around.
As they shared the ideas they had come up with, I created a list of their "good Ideas" (see resource section). When they share, I remain noncommittal, so that they always feel free to give their ideas, opinions or answers. I select some, but not all the good ones. This shows them I respect all their input; and they know their answers will eventually be chosen (they really enjoy having their suggestions being chosen and written in a chart or graphic organizer).
I asked them what we were writing about and we agreed on the topic or main idea which I wrote on the "large oval". We had used this graphic organizer previously on lessons on main idea and key details, so I had many good suggestions. I kept the list and the graphic organizer for the next day.
Before completing the organizer, I asked them to point to the area of the wall where they can find it, if they forget how to make one, or if they want to check their work. Such frequent referring to posted resources helps them become independent. Mastering the standard implies that they will be able to create a piece working independently from beginning to end. This writing cycle is setting the stage towards this independence, and the posted resources will be crutches they use while needed.
In the resource section you can see the graphic organizer we completed using the list of ideas. I left an empty space so that they could add one more key detail if they wanted to (easy differentiation for the advanced writers). You can also see a clip of how I teach my students to make their own graphic organizer. This doesn't only save photocopying, it gives them ownership of the tool and encourages them to use it independently.
The objective of day 2 in my weekly writing cycles is to brainstorm and complete an organizer. However, I don't like to leave the process midstream. I want my students to see the whole process as often as possible, so after completing the graphic organizer, I told them that I wanted to show them how they would use it to write their paragraph; and proceeded to do it. I completed it quickly with just a little bit of teacher think aloud. We read it chorally when I finished (this models reading your writing when you finish, reading with prosody, and gives purpose to the writing task).