WRITING CAN TAKE MANY FORMS:
jokes and riddles
TEACHING STRENGTHS OF SOME FORMS/GENRES OF WRITING
PERSONAL ESSAY – High interest. Voice, ideas.
PERSUASIVE ESSAY – Organization, thinking skills.
OPINION ESSAY – Thinking skills, ideas, organization.
NONFICTION ARTICLE – Research skills, organization.
MONOLOGUE – High interest. First person voice, sentence fluency.
PICTURE BOOK – Plot, characterization, word choice, sentence fluency, illustration.
SHORT STORY – Plot, characterization, word choice, sentence fluency.
BIOGRAPHY – Research skills and/or interviewing skills, organization.
INTERVIEW – High interest. Speaking skills, question-asking skills, organization.
PLAYS – High interest. Dialogue, plot, speaking skills, performance skills.
POETRY – Word choice, ideas, voice.
LETTERS – High interest. Voice, sentence fluency.
WHY TEACH GENRES?
Why? Because writing adheres to different forms. While the qualities of good writing cut across all genres and forms of writing, each genre or form has its own “rules.” (The form a letter takes is different from the form a short story takes, for example.) In a persuasive essay, the writer must take a clear stand on an issue and anticipate all objections/contrary arguments to his point-of-view. A good mystery writer weaves a trail of clues to the solving of his mystery.
When I sit down to write, I gear my writing toward a specific form–whether it’s picture book, essay, a letter, an easy reader or a longer chapter book. While occasionally a story that starts out to be a picture book might turn into a chapter book instead, or even a poem, most of the time I write to the requirements of a specific form or genre. Students can do this too. To get started, what they need are good models of the form or genre they are attempting to emulate. One genre that works particularly well for student writing in the curricular areas of science and social studies is realistic or historical fiction–in the the form of a “Day in the life of” paper.
In a Day in the life of an animal paper, students write from the point-of-view of an animal. (Click here to see student sample) Since the genre is realistic fiction, students must incorporate carefully-researched details about the animal’s life and behavior in their writing. Good examples of realistic animal fiction can be found in many published books for children, including a series by Jean Craighead George called “The Moon of ” series. (The Moon of the Gray Wolves; The Moon of the Mountain Lion, etc.). Ask a librarian to recommend other similar titles. Restricting the paper to a single day in the animal’s life helps put boundaries on the writing, so that student writers are working with an easy-to-handle time frame, one which should also “force” them to “write small,” using plenty of details that show, rather than tell. For steps to follow in making the assignment, see Steps to Take in Teaching Any Genre or Form of Writing, which follows this introduction.
A variation on the Day in the life of paper that works well for social studies writing, is realistic or historical fiction writing in the form of diary entries. Click here to see student sample. Here, students write from the point-of-view of a fictional character who is close to their own age. Students must incorporate details about the setting, historical period, dress, food, customs, etc. that they have carefully researched. Writing about a person close to their own age allows students to use their knowledge of themselves–their curiosities, fears, feelings, etc.–to inform their writing. You’ll want to encourage them to model their main character’s family on what they know about their own families and their friends’ families, too. It’s probably best to restrict diary entries to a certain number (perhaps 4 – 6) broken up over the course of only one or two days. As noted earlier, shorter time frames are more manageable for students, and usually result in more detailed writing.
STEPS TO TAKE IN TEACHING ANY GENRE OR FORM OF WRITING:
- Read aloud (and have students read on their own) professionally-written examples of the genre/form.
- Using writing terms (voice, word choice, sentence fluency, sensory details, strong verbs, etc.), point out what makes the writing effective.
- Discuss the characteristics of the genre/form. How is it different from other genres/forms? With students, make a list of what they’ll want to think about and include when they write their own biography, research paper, persuasive essay, picture book, monologue, business letter, etc. They should also jot down notes about possible topics in a Writer’s notebook or other place for storing ideas.
- If the writing will involve research, teach systems for note-taking, interviewing skills (if needed), and whatever other skills students will need.
- Students pre-write, then write a rough draft. (NOTE: This step assumes you’ve already modeled in previous mini-lessons different methods of pre-writing and tips on getting rough drafts down quickly.) Put aside the rough drafts to return to later.
- Share strong and weak anonymous student samples of the genre or form. Use writing terms and the class-generated list of characteristics to assess and talk about what makes the writings effective or not-so-effective.
- Students work in pairs to revise a weak anonymous student sample and/or a sample YOU have written, in one or more traits.
- Students use a rubric (such as Six-Trait rubrics) and characteristics list to assess their rough drafts, then write a second draft.
- Students conference with each other (and with you) to get feedback on their second drafts.
- Students use feedback to write a third draft.
- Students edit to the best of their ability. (Use editing checklists.)
- Students self-evaluate and assess their writing.
- YOU evaluate and assess their writing.
- Sharing of finished pieces and or publication
From the Writing Curriculum Files of Children’s Author, Suzanne Williams www.suzanne-williams.com