Monday, October 20, 2014

Teaching Color-Coded Elaboration Strategies to Students: Part 2

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Last week, I wrote about color-coding elaboration strategies. Over the course of the week, several teachers asked me about this lesson and I had the chance to teach it in two separate classrooms on Friday and today. One of the perks of my job is that I get to teach the same lesson to different classrooms and adjust it if I think that it could be better.

The first time, I co-taught the lesson with one of our teachers and we had students divide into teams to elaborate my skeleton story: I arrived at the beach. I wanted to learn to ride a wave. I rode a wave right in to the beach! One team worked on description, one team worked on dialogue, one on action, and one on inner thought. On that day, I scribed their work on to the chart in between the three original sentences, using different colors to signify different elaboration strategies. Both of us thought the lesson went well and students were definitely using the various strategies during the workshop, but I thought that the scribing took longer than it should have.

When I taught the lesson a second time, I brought colored strips of paper. The teaching point is on the chart below, and I left room so that the classroom teacher can write more under each strategy if she wants to.

After showing them the chart and establishing the teaching point, we divided the students into teams and gave each team several strips of the same colored paper: red for action, blue for description, green for dialogue, and purple for inner thinking.

Once they wrote their strips, we taped them up into the appropriate places on the chart paper and watched the story get better and better. We added inner thinking last so that they could see how much depth thoughts add to stories.

The three main sentences are: I arrived at the beach. I wanted to learn to ride a wave. I rode a wave in to the shore.

During the workshop, most of the students were working hard to try out different strategies. At the very least, they were more aware of what they could work on. I can't wait to hear more about how they continue to use these strategies.

Happy writing,


  1. Melanie, I love this! I will be using this with my ELLs who so struggle with adding details! And, I will be going back to read your post from last week.

  2. Melanie,
    I love how using the color coded strips of paper meant the students were working hard and actually "making the mess" that is a part of elaboration. Thanks for sharing this second part of the story!

  3. I loved that color coding post and this one as well. I noticed that Ruth Ayres' son Sam wrote a post on his new blog doing the same thing. I told him I want to use it as a mentor text. I love this idea - it just makes the learning visible which is so important to many. Thanks for coaching from afar!

    1. Do you have a link to that post? Thanks.

  4. The idea to color code strategies is just brilliant - I think kids need to see how these elements can be played around with, this, after all, is part of the joy of writing.

  5. This is great, Melanie! The visual impact created by the different color strips will be really helpful to kids as they add different kinds of details to their writing. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Color coding is a GREAT way to make writing and revising visual. Another way I would consider doing this: Since we are a Google school and our students are 1:1 with iPads, I would write the skeleton story starter, then assign groups to get together and add their assigned parts in the assigned color on their group copy. Then, I'd bring everyone together, and with each group's story/work open in a different tab, I'd copy and paste their additions into a master copy to see how they all go together... Or let each group try to arrange it on their own.

    So many possibilities.


  7. Thank you so much for your post. Your idea and plan was just what I needed at the exact time you posted. We are on the NH coast so I used your idea almost verbatim. It worked beautifully and left us with so many options to continue developing our writing. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and ideas so generously.