Sunday, May 25, 2014

Developing Students' Understanding of the Three Types of Writing

Watching students take the Smarter Balanced Assessment, it was really apparent how important it is that students understand that there are three types of writing. Even though students participated in the same background building activity and read the same articles, they randomly received either a narrative, informational, or opinion/argument piece to write.

Our sixth-graders experienced writing instruction integrated in all of their subjects this year. I received concerned feedback about this at the beginning of the year; students became confused when they had to switch gears from informational writing in science to argumentative writing in social studies, and then to literary responses in reading. However, I think that this sort of integration helped our students when they face a random selection of writing on their SBAC performance assessment.

As a team, we developed anchor charts for the three types of writing that we shared with all of the teachers. The anchor charts that I am sharing in this post are from Peg Bruno's class, but a sample of each one is included in our district's curriculum and a derivative of them can be found in almost all of the district's 6th grade classrooms. We have even passed them up to the seventh grade teachers so that the language that students have already heard is there for their next teachers.
Anchor Chart for Narrative Writing
Anchor Chart for Information Writing
Anchor Chart for Argument Writing

One of my guiding beliefs about charts is that students should be involved in creating them. The duplicating of the charts from one sixth grade class to another is an exception to this belief because students have already been involved in the creation of the chart in one of the classes. To borrow one of my favorite lines from Kate Roberts, our TC Staff Developer, these teaching points are rinsed and repeated in various classes. These charts provide a scaffold and a structure for students to retain, transfer, and remain responsible for their learning throughout the year. 

Anchor Chart for the Three Types of Writing
As I am envisioning some of the revisions to the launching of some of our earlier grades' writing units, I am liking the idea of a lesson that teaches students that there are three types of writing. While I don't want to teach everything about each one, I think that developing their awareness of the different types of writing will help them learn the nuances of each type throughout the year. This awareness could also help them weave various types of writing within the curriculum throughout the year. I am picturing the development of a chart that contains bullets about each type of writing, done either as an inquiry lesson or as a presentation to students. 

If anyone has taught this lesson, I'd love to hear how it went and whether it helped students shift between various types of writing. Ultimately, the types of writing do not live in silos; strong writers use the three types purposefully and powerfully. My goal is to develop instructional strategies to help more and more students understand and appreciate how important words are in our lives. 

I hope that you are enjoying your weekends,


  1. I love the idea of sharing anchor charts.

  2. Melanie, thank you so much for sharing this. I may be moving to 6th from 4th and needed to know that anchor charts are still useful and needed at that level. Would you mind stating what the 2nd point is on the augment chart. It looks like it was yellow marker and I can't read it. Thanks!

    1. Sure. It's Make Your Claim about your topic. Sorry about that! These were the charts that I had said I would send you, but now you have them through the blog. I was going to send you a DM to make sure that you got them!

  3. I think students and teachers need to see these types of writing side by side to make sense of each and connections across each type. It isn't surprising students are confused. It's just the beginning for so many. Thank you so much for sharing this! I'm holding on to it and passing it on.. hoping others will rinse an repeat!

  4. I love this! For the chart on argument writing, I cannot make out what the 2nd step is. Would you let me know? I'm definitely going to use these ideas for charts next year. Thanks!

  5. OOps, Just saw you already answered that in the comments above. Thanks!