Saturday, March 7, 2015

An Information Piece to Make Us Smile

This month, I have committed to writing every day through the community at Two Writing Teachers. All are welcome to the March Slice of Life Challenge! It's not too late to join in or comment or just read... Many of my posts will be at my personal blog, Just Write, Melanie, but the posts that relate explicitly to learning will be on both blogs. 

After I read Georgia Heard's, Finding the Heart of Nonfiction, I became much more interested in working with teachers to ensure that students maintain a sense of voice when they write information or opinion. The CCSS really don't talk much about voice, and a well-written encyclopedia article (although somewhat dry and voiceless) would meet the standards. 

Today, I stopped to say hello to a fourth-grade teacher.

"I have an on-demand piece that you have to read," she said.

I love it when teachers say that to me, but that's another post... Our most recent writing assessment was a performance task. Students had a couple of articles to read, a short video clip to write, and then they had to write an information piece about the Connecticut River. 

She handed me the piece. "I got a little worried when I read the first page," she said. 

A good hair day? I could definitely understand why the teacher was a little concerned...

But then I kept reading, and my jaw started to drop.

 We used Hudson Talbott's It's All About Me-ow throughout the unit as a mentor text, and clearly, this student had internalized it. I have written about this book here and what a great mentor text it is, but here is student writing proof. Don't you love her use of parentheses?

True to her introduction's suggestion of sections, her piece stayed organized by topics, and I have included another page. Maybe some of you will want to share in my amazement of how she wove in details as she personified the Connecticut River into the narrator. Please remember. This is a fourth-grader writing an on-demand piece for a performance task. She read, watched, planned, and wrote in two classroom sessions.

I talked to the student before I left her classroom, complimenting her and suggesting that she revisit this piece. I'd love to see it in a contest some day, and in the meantime, I share it with all of you. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Happy Slicing!!


  1. This is so refreshing. This student may not get flying colors on the test, though. Her text evidence is so brilliantly woven in I'm afraid a grader might miss it. I would love to hear her read it aloud!

    1. I may sound like Pollyanna, but I'm going to try to believe that there will be room in graders' minds for creativity and voice. I'm hoping...

  2. This stunned me! Loved the voice so much, and what a fresh take. Would love to share with the writing teachers in our school who just got done similar performance tasks.

    1. Please feel free to share. I can even talk to the students about sending the whole piece.

  3. - I think I will share the idea of providing articles and clips to watch on the topic (we've just allowed them to bring their own---your way will provide more equity) & we must write something about MO (I'm 4th grade too)
    - Darn it! I missed buying Its all about ME-ow at our book fair...
    -This piece is tremendous. Her creativity goes well beyond what any scoring guide can give her credit for. I mean the parenthetical text was so thoughtful. (4 boats and 7 fish ago) That is clever!
    -I would love to read the entire piece. She should make it into a book! :)

  4. I found myself giggling at her little parentheses, and when Mackenzie and Christina asked what I was laughing at (expecting it to be some funny social media picture), they laughed when I said a fourth grader's piece. But when I had them read it, they were both laughing as well. I'm just saying, she'll come up with some great instagram captions some day, with her amount of creativity!

  5. It's wonderful, Melanie. I use so many mentor texts so that students can see the wide variety of creative ways that writers write. Beautiful lessons here for us all!

  6. That is really outstanding voice in an informational piece. Thanks for sharing both the student's writing and your resources.

  7. This is AMAZING! What else can I say?

  8. Wow! What an incredible job this girl did. Thanks for sharing it with us!