Each day, I begin my ELA class with Reading Time. This is a time for students to access a range of texts. I use this time to conference with students, collect data on class patterns and trends with independent reading and to provide individualized support.
Students have had many lessons on word choice and sentence structure, both this year and in other grades as well. We spend these few minutes merely as a review of those concepts to serve as a way for students to focus their thinking for today's lesson.
I have students pull up the close reading informative text powerpoint on either the iPads in the classroom or their own devices. As a class we review the fourth slide, which focuses on audience, tone and style. I spend time reading each question out loud and asking students to put these questions in their own words verbally:
Students participate in a class discussion while we review each question. While the topics may not be new for students, the new part is how the think about word choice/language and sentence structure in relation to purpose and affect. This serves as a way for students to focus their thinking as we begin the next part of the lesson where we practice these questions.
For the most part, students can highlight words that stand out in any given text. That's not the part that will need emphasis for today's lesson. Students thinking about the effect certain word choices and sentence structure has on either the piece or the reading of the piece will need instruction. Students rush as they read so giving them time to really think about what they are reading will hopefully help them understand the effect and purpose more.
Once students know what to focus on for today's lesson, we begin the process of modeling in context. Students need to see how these concepts appear in informative writing, so I try to find examples of good and effective writing.
I pass out the following A Black Hole Is Not A Hole (First Page) to the class so each student has a copy. Students then take out a pen or highlighter so they can annotate as we read together. I encourage students to keep the Powerpoint we discussed earlier in class open so they know exactly what we are looking for in terms of word choice and sentence structure.
The first side titled "Place With Pull" is used to focus on word choice. Throughout the piece, as we read, students are able to see effective use of word choice for a specific purpose and affect. The back of the sheet is used to focus on sentence structure and variety. Depending on the class, this is a great way to differentiate instruction. Some classes are able to be pushed and can think about the effect of sentence structures. Other classes may need to focus on just the variety of sentences.
As we read, I stop at certain words and sentences on both sides. I tell students to annotate the, either by highlighting or underlining, and then we discuss as class they why behind the word and sentence. I have students then write notes to themselves based on our class discussion. These notes will be referred to as they are writing their own pieces. Students are being guided through the process of annotating a text. Here are my notes on both sides for both excerpts. As I read, I pause and show students what they should be making note of. My notes are then used for students to take their own notes.
In this video you can see students discussing they work they did and what they noticed when focusing on word choice in the excerpt.
As a whole, this lesson is done as a model for students so they can see word choice and sentence structure in context in informative text with the hope that they can apply these ideas to their own writing of their informative text piece.
The rest of class is independent practice for their project. It's important to give students time to practice and work on their writing in class. I have learned that most students have trouble with starting. I use moments like this to give them time to work so I can guide them towards writing.
I encourage students to focus on the ideas of audience, tone and style that we discussed earlier in class. This is beneficial for the higher level students. For other students, they may need assistance to begin working so I refer back to the learning that occurred earlier. As I circulate, I see where students are in their project and what they need assistance with. Students will work on their projects for the duration of class.
As students are writing, I float around the classroom to offer assistance when needed. Since students are at different levels in their writing skills, some may need assistance with rewording the information, some may need technology assistance, and other may need assistance with the ideas and concepts we discussed earlier on audience, tone and style.
Here are links to a students' final projects, using all the work from this unit.
Here are some pictures of students working with technology as they work on their projects: