Saturday, February 19, 2011

Familiarizing and Analyzing: Introducing a New Form of Writing

When teaching a form of writing, many teachers often begin by modeling that form together with their students.  From this modeling, students might begin by doing some writing of their own, to practise the components and build some mastery of it.  Using the modeling as a  launching point, teachers move into mini-lessons around the form to strengthen these skills.

It can sometimes be frustrating as the modeling isn't enough for some of our students.  We search for ways to address their needs and build in the skills they need, and often times, we do more modeling before moving through the gradual release of responsibility with them.

In the First Steps Writing model, they have identified two steps we need to include in our writing programs before we default to modeling the form.  They suggest that we have students familiarize and analyze examples of the text form to identify the similarities and create rules of their own for the form.  This allows students to internalize the text features, organization and purpose of the form and make meaning themselves before delving into the work.

Looking at samples from that writing form supports our learners who need to see different examples of the form to see that the purpose may be the same, but the type may be different.

Mike was just beginning his procedural writing form with his class and he decided to have them familiarize and analyze different texts in small groups and decide their effectiveness.  Examples included: a recipe, IKEA directions, small appliances/electronics booklets and a map.  With their group, students looked through the samples and filled in a worksheet to document their thoughts and ideas.
From this small group work, they came back to the large group and shared their opinions about the samples they felt were most or least effective and why.  This led to using their ideas to fill in a Frayer Model anchor chart together, to summarize and synthesize the key features of the writing form.
The book, The Write Genre, is a critical resource in Mike's writing program as he likes the way it is laid out around the purpose and organization of each form and includes examples to use with students.

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