Continuing on with the exploration of ideas, I have placed a basket of topic cards at students’ work stations. I place several copies of each topic card in the baskets in case students share in the same topics. As we review what we did in the previous lesson, Choosing A Topic, I remind students that we are still in the brainstorming stage of writing. I encourage students to think like authors and to understand that authors do a lot of exploration before writing and determining what to write about. So to begin the lesson I tell students that we will begin like authors and take a look at the topics we have learned about and know the most about. I also tell students that authors write about information they are most interested in. Keeping that in mind, I tell students to look through the basket and pick the topic they are most interested in and or remember the most about. In our state, students study various science and social studies topics from Rocks and Minerals to Democracy. I have included topic cards for all of the areas we have covered up to this point in the year in the basket. I encourage students to look at each topic and think about them before they make a decision. After students have decided on a topic, we move on to the next part of the lesson.
I think it is important for students to see writing in process, so although I employ the Writer’s Workshop model in my class, I like to do mini-writing lessons, where I model for students through a think aloud. I tell students that I have taken a topic that I am interested in and remember a lot about and I want to share it with students. I choose a topic we haven’t studied yet so students aren’t tempted to use my ideas as their own. I show students the card I’ve chosen and I begin with modeling the next task. I actually like to use an overhead projector sometimes when I’m modeling writing. I know it is a little primitive, but I think it keeps the act of writing authentic when students can see me in writing mode and model it for themselves as they write. I tell students I am going to list all the things I know about the topic I’ve chosen. As I am doing this, I think aloud for students as I write.
After I have modeled for students, I have them turn to the back of their card and list the things they remember about their topic. As students are writing, I circulate the room and have discussions with students about their notes. Next, I have students share their topics with the students at their table. After students finish, I talk to them about the writing process and remind students that we are still brainstorming and that when we are writing informational pieces we have to gather information to include in our writing.
To end the lesson, I call on students to share their information. I encourage classmates to chime in and offer any other information they may be able to give to their classmates about their topics. As we bring the lesson to a close I ask students, “How does drawing on information you already know help you when writing about a topic?” I want students to understand that drawing on background knowledge helps us focus on our writing and makes it more interesting to write because we begin with something we already know.