Friday, March 14, 2014

SOLC #14: Inspiring Leads in our Informational Writing Unit

Thanks to for hosting the annual Slice of Life Challenge. We are all writing every day for the entire month of March!

I have to admit that I find it hard to always share my life and reflections as a writing coach. In some ways, I am uncomfortable taking any credit at all for the instruction that happens in classrooms. Our teachers work so hard and have been asked to absorb so much in the way of both new curriculum and new instruction. That being said, today I had an incredible shout-out from one of the teachers I've been working with closely, and she inspired me to write about the work that she's been doing in her classroom. She and her team have been piloting the new fourth-grade information writing unit, using the new Units of Study for Writing from The Teachers College Reading and Writing Project.

This teacher has invited me in several times throughout the unit, and I have several posts that I've been crafting to offer peeks into the unit and I apologize for going out of sequence, but I can't resist writing about the lesson that went on today, especially since it was a great slice of life!

The class is up to learning about leads for introductions to informational pieces and I love that in the book, there are options for introductions that include:

  • Questions
  • Fun, surprising, or shocking facts
  • "Imagine" statements
We have added to this repertoire, as we have studied nonfiction books we love, so the choices have been developing.  Today, the teacher taught about the different ways to begin a piece, creating the chart at the right. 

Then, she modeled how writers can even combine techniques., writing on the fly in front of her students on the whiteboard.

Several of her students loved the idea that writers can combine these techniques in one introduction, and it was really fun to watch one of the young writers experiment with this concept on post-its within her writer's notebook. One student's introduction went from:
Why was a patriot a great a great horseback rider and also one of USA's most famous craftsmen?
Imagine a man who could have two wives, 16 children, be a famous horseback rider and be one of USA's most famous craftsmen. That was Paul Revere, but how many jobs did he have? What did he do?

I have to say, even though she still has work to do, it is SO much fun to watch a child play with words, revise during a draft (instead of after a draft), work to integrate newly taught strategies, and think about how to hook readers in an informational unit. I'm so grateful for these teachers for embracing a new unit when there is so much else changing and evolving around them, and I have to celebrate the inspiration that they are to me, to each other, and to their students. Stay tuned for more peeks into the Art of Information Writing.


  1. This was wonderful, Melenie - a step by step view of transformative teaching. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Thank you for sharing this peek into your colleague's classroom! I loved reading about the work you're both doing, and best of all, seeing your student's revision incorporating new strategies into his writing. Nice job!

  3. I enjoyed this very much, Melanie, showing the charts with essential info, then the one after some practice & processing. You should be proud of your influence in these lessons, too!

  4. We use the Units of Study for writing for third grade- this was the first year. The kids are learning so much about applying real strategies to their writing. It always amazes me how well they apply the strategies we teach to their writing.

  5. I love this part of teaching watching the student take new learning and apply it to their writing to see if will make for better writing. I love the drafting and re-drafting. The pics do a great job of showing the layers of the instruction.

  6. I am always intrigued about what is happening in other teachers' classrooms. Thanks for giving me a glimpse to your world today!

  7. Your writer or editor should respond directly to you - otherwise a great deal of time, effort and resources will be squandered. website