Analyzing the Author's Craft

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SWBAT analyze how the author writes their story in order to get ideas of how to structure their own piece of expository writing.

Big Idea

The more we read, the more ideas we get for our own writing. So let's start reading!

Teacher Background Knowledge and Preparation

This is the 3rd expository unit I've created that has the students utilize one source of information in their research.  Just like my Honeybees and Crabs units the students will get a story that I've created, and they will use this one resource to create their own piece of expository text.  This unit will be the last unit where we only use one source in our research, and so this is really the last heavily scaffolded writing unit that will help prepare my students to be able to do research on their own (W.1.2).  The next unit will consist of my students finding research on their own and then writing a piece of expository text.  I feel as though my students will have had enough experience researching with one source, and in our next unit on Elephants we will be changing how we research.  I am looking forward to having my students grow in this way in the writing process. 

I only have about 30 minutes to teach writing each day.  This lesson is listed at being about an hour long, so I split it into two days after the Guided Practice.  You can complete the lesson in one day, or split it like I do depending on how long you have for writing each day. It usually takes me about 2 weeks to complete a writing unit, but, by the end of the unit, my students really will have a quality piece of work to show for it.

Today, we are building background knowledge so that my students are knowledgeable about our topic.  If my students don't know anything about sharks, how will they be able to write an informed piece on sharks? Students will be writing the information they learn about sharks on their graphic organizers.

As we look at the information in the text, we are addressing RI.1.2. We will also be thinking about the structure of the text and determining what the author is trying to teach the reader in each section.  We will be having group discussions about what the main idea and details in each section are.

Finally, we are also participating in shared research and writing projects (W.1.7).  The students all have the same story, but they will have to record what each of the main idea and details are on each part of their graphic organizer on their own.  This is also a great way to strengthen your student's understanding of what the main idea and details are in an authentic way instead of just doing a worksheet.

For today's lesson you will want to have your shark story. You can project the story onto your Smartboard.  You will also want your Smartboard lesson on sharks, and you'll need to make sure you have made enough shark books and graphic organizers for each of your students.   I made the books quick and easy to prepare.  Look at the video here in the resource section to see how to assemble the books.

Introducing the Objective and Guided Practice

10 minutes

When I first started teaching my Honeybees and Crabs writing unit I taught my students how to find the main idea and details in a very formulaic way.  In my mind, my students would be reading paragraphs in their elementary years where the main idea was either the first or last sentence in a paragraph.  My coach pointed out that if I taught in this way, my students might be confused in later years if they rely on a limited formula to find the main idea and don't have a solid understanding of what a main idea is.  In this unit, I still created the story where the main idea was either the first or last sentence in the paragraph, but I taught the concept much differently today, focusing on the essential qualities of the main idea, rather than the location in the paragraph. 

I said, " Just like we did in our Honeybee and Crab stories we are going to find the main idea and details today.  There are four main sections in the story.  We will find the main idea and details in each of the sections.  I also want to read the first page of the story which is our introduction, but we won't focus on the introduction today."

We read the first page (the introduction) just so we could build some background knowledge.  We read page 2 of the story.  I said, "Remember, the main idea is what the page is mostly about.  It is the big idea that the author is trying to teach you.  Since I am the author of the story, I want you to think about it.  What was I trying to teach you about on this page?  Talk with the people at your table." I gave my students about 2 minutes to talk about this.  Then we had a whole class discussion that lasted another 3-4 minutes. Since we had done 2 units already where I had taught them that the main idea was either the first or last sentence in the paragraph, a lot of my higher achieving students were able to pick out the vocabulary where the last sentence said, "Now do you know what sharks actually are?"  These students were able to verbalize this during our class discussion.  I said, " So what you're saying is you were able to find the clue vocabulary that helped you to decide that this was the main idea." This is why class discussions are so valuable.  Students are able to teach others strategies with their comments and others are able to learn from others just by listening. 

Once we had determined what the main idea was I said, "Pick up the color of highlighter that you decided would be your main idea color.  Highlight your main idea in that color and then write your main idea on your graphic organizer." 

Even though the remaining sentences were details sentences I didn't want my students to be blindly highlighting and writing details on their graphic organizer.  We did one sentence at a time.  We highlighted our sentences with the color the students decided would be their detail color.  For each sentence I said, "Does this describe what a shark actually is? Does it support the main idea?"  I still wanted the student's minds to be actively engaged.  We finished highlighting our detail sentences and writing those details on our graphic organizers. View the video here in the resource section to see how our class discussion went.

Independent Practice and Writing Their Main Idea and Details

30 minutes

We had three more pages (ending page excluded) to read and record the main idea and details. I allowed students to discuss the content on each page before highlighting and writing what they thought the main idea and details were.  I circulated around the room and asked students questions if they happened to think one of the details was the main idea.  I would ask questions such as, "Do you think that sentence is the big idea of the page?  Do the other sentences support this sentence?"  As I'm learning this year, it is more beneficial for the students when the teacher asks them questions that lead them to finding the correct answer on their own than for me to just say, "No you're wrong.  This is the correct answer." It is much more powerful for them to find the correct answer on their own.

Once each table was done with a page, I would check it over.  Then they were allowed to go on to the next page, read it, discuss the content, and then write the main idea and details on their graphic organizer.  I continued to walk around, ask questions, and make sure students were on track.


5 minutes

I love my closures to be short and sweet.  I said, "What did we learn about sharks today? What did we learn about finding the main idea today?"  The students were so eager to share what they learned.  Another benefit of using accountable talk in your classroom is how much information students retain.  I was really surprised that after just one reading my students were able to remember as many details about sharks as they did.