78: Shorter Writing Projects (1 of 3)





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People Research:
  • Uses / purposes:
    • Easier than research abstract topics
    • Stepping stone for building research and writing skills that build up to attract topics
  • Questionnaires & Surveys
    • Play-by-play:
      • Investigate sample surveys and extract examples and key features.  For modeling lessons, go here.
      • Learn about different survey questions and different scoring systems.
      • Design and implement own surveys.
      • Workshop how to cluster and summarize data using various graphs
      • Students write about conclusions that are backed by evidence in the summary graphs
  • Interviews
    • Play-by-play:
      • Help students select and contact people they can interview
      • Help students design interview questions
      • Students interview subjects using questionnaire and use writing and recording devices to record interview
      • Flesh out interview information with information researched from valid internet sources
      • Develop writing pieces using researched information aimed at a specific audience
      • Use teacher conferences and peer response sessions for
        • revisions – substantial changes in writing structure
        • revising – after revisions, polish word choice, spelling, and grammar
        • proofreading – correct tiny errors that spell check and grammar check miss
        • For critique lesson formats, go here.
        • Use checklists to help with giving descriptive feedback.
  • writing genre that marries factual research with imagination (facts + fiction)
  • students research facts and write stories involving these
  • Uses:
    • students can personalize learning – connect to their lives, prior knowledge, experiences
    • serve as additional alternative summative assessment in addition to traditional test
    • short guided research project
  • Example:
    • write a journal entry for character using researched historical details
  • Play-by-play:
    • Topic search: Depends on goals
      • Develop research skills – start with assigned set of resources
      • Independent research:
        • start with set of teacher generated list topics
        • guide students to find interesting topics:
          • scan textbook and pay attention to bold text and picture captions
          • assign 3 general website, study these, and list intriguing topics
    • Identifying the Audiences:
      • 3 audiences: teacher, writer, and someone else
      • identify other audience that connects to writing topic and writing genre
    • Gathering Information:
      • 2-3 valid sources
      • use a checklist for identifying valid internet sources
      • give students starter list of 5-10 sources
      • teach students how to search databases and how to frame data queries into Google and similar tools
      • collaborate with media specialist / librarian if your school has one or more
    • Prewriting:
      • record key research information
      • react to researched information in character
      • develop character details – age, social status, occupation, education, gender, background, goals, hopes, dreams
    • Drafting:
      • Work the room – scan writing as it evolves
      • After 30 min of drafting, students read aloud to a partner – listen for revision opportunities
      • Double-spaced drafts create room for written comments
    • Revisions:
      • Revise for 2 reasons;
        • increase evidence of sufficient research
          • underline key facts in piece
          • model use of parenthetical citations
          • students add citations to their papers
          • identify areas that have little factual content and research more info to fill these gaps
        • enhance characterization with examples, details
          • read papers aloud in writing groups and discuss:
            • words that created action and imagery
            • favorite parts
            • parts missing details and information
            • when did you care most about character
      • Split revisions into 2 phases (see 2 above) with space in between each to let work rest
    • Editting:
      • Chart common student errors and use chart to identify top 3 errors in individual’s work
      • Teach students how to find and correct common errors
      • Check in with ELA class to see if you can emphasize key grammar elements being featured in that course
      • Have writing partners only provide editing feedback on 1st page of writing and have individual students find similar errors in remaining pages
      • Create individual responsibilities sheets that list writing goals and individual’s top 3 errors – use these lists to improve writing
      • Have writing partner read the paper aloud – more likely to read mistakes as written so they are easier to hear
      • Check for spelling errors by reading slowly with finger tracing each word
      • Ask students to get 2 other adults (besides teacher) to proofread paper
    • Sharing the writing:
      • Read papers aloud at presentations
      • Seek out audiences beyond the classroom
      • Hold unto to writing samples and polish and
      • submit best sample within a semester to a class magazine
    • Other Tips
      • Facilitate each stage and explain its purpose so that students learn to appreciate writing as a process
      • Provide feedback at each phase so students can gradually improve over time
    • Possible grading criteria:
      • Realization of character through details
      • Replicates genre fully
      • Use of research and notes is evident
      • Uses citations and reference page correctly
      • Original, creative, but school appropriate


3-sowhatThe two writing projects described above are research projects that build up to  more difficult genres that involve research of abstract topics.  The people research project helps students write about topics that are very personal and tangible and teaches them how to design and research questions.  The faction paper teaches students how to blend fact and fiction.  It helps them to connect factual research with their own lives and experiences.


Preparation Steps
  • Decide what writing assignments develop skills that are good pre-cursors to more formal genres that are key to the course.
  • Early in the year scaffold and assess writing projects that feature genres that develop skills related to more complex genres.
  • Research and develop strategies and tools that relate to these writing genres.  Think about how the skills taught in these projects can be leveraged later in the year.
Early Implementation Steps
  • Implement project that features writing product from a preparing genre.  See above for examples and here and here.
  • Have students reflect on how they are developing skills that you know will be used later in the year.
Advanced Implementation Steps
  • Re-use some of the strategies in preparation projects in order to reinforce skills that will be used in later writing projects.
  • Maintain a class blog or class magazine that features high quality student work.

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