Students have completed their brief notes from their research on a famous landform of their choosing. Now, it is time for them to write their informative paragraph. I modeled using my notes to write my own paragraph. I conducted a Think Aloud to walk students through the process of turning notes into complete sentences. ‘Wave Rock. Western Australia. Big wave,’ became ‘Wave Rock is located in Western Australia. It is shaped like a big wave.’ Modeling for students in this manner allowed them to see the step-by-step process of turning short phrases into complete sentences in order to convey a message to an audience. I engaged students by allowing them into the brain of a writer; me. This first foray into informational writing was fairly brief. I wanted students to experience success in seeing the magic of a few words morph into something readable and understandable.
After I completed my paragraph, I had students take out their graphic organizer with their brief notes. I gave them a sheet of paper and they began to write. We have been working on writing for extended periods of time, so this time we wrote for twenty minutes. (That’s up from 10 at the beginning of the year.) I didn’t expect students to complete their paragraphs in one day. Writing would continue the following day, if needed.
I circulated around the class to assist as students wrote. One student had trouble getting started. To help him along, I read one of his brief notes aloud and asked him to turn it onto a sentence. “Mount St. Helens is in Washington?” he asked hesitantly. I told him it was a perfect sentence and that was all he needed to keep writing to completion.
Students were still working on their paragraphs, so I just did a few brief reads. All students were able to write sentences (whether complete or incomplete) from their notes. This let me know that explicit modeling made the process clear for students. It also helped to have a meaningful context for the skill. Instead of using a worksheet on incomplete sentences and turning them into complete sentences, students saw an appropriate use for writing phrases and turning them into complete sentences to convey information on a topic.
After writing for twenty minutes, students shared what they had written thus far with a partner. This provided closure to today’s writing. Students were able to reflect on what they had written and look ahead to where they would need to begin the following day.