Writing: A Yearlong Curriculum set of books which are already in most of your schools.Children who are given strong instruction can easily learn to write the sort of nonfiction books described above, but also to do so with greater sophistication.These books are more sophisticated if they address a more focused topic, and/or if each chapter has a structure (feeding my dog breakfast, then feeding my dogsupper.) The writing will also be more sophisticated if it includes features of nonfiction books, if writers draw from a variety of sources of information andrevise for clarity, and if the texts answer readers’ questions, etc.It’s another step forward when writers learn that each separate chapter can beidea-based (that is, written like a little thesis-driven essay.) One way to helpwriters to make this step ahead is to encourage them to title their chapters withwhole sentences. For example, instead of naming one chapter, ‘Teaching My Dogto Come When Called’ this chapter might be titled, “It is Challenging to TeachMy Dog to Come When Called.” In each small chapter, the writer would learn toonly include information which advances the main idea of that chapter. This sortof writing represents a big step toward essay writing, where the writer is nowasked to advance an idea across multiple subsections.Information Writing Around Topics of Shared (or Independent) StudyAll of the work described so far is easier when writers are writing about topics onwhich they have personal expertise and the work is vastly more difficult if reliesupon research. For this reason, we suggest first asking student to write aroundtopics of personal expertise (Soccer Goalies, The Yankees, Caring for a BabyBrother, Japanese Holidays). Later, writers can do similar writing around subjectsthey are studying.Idea-Based WritingAt some point during third or fourth grade, you will want to introduce children towhat I call idea-based (as opposed to information-based) writing. Children needtime to practice simple versions of this ‘kind of’ writing before they are expectedto produce the more challenging, thesis-driven, tightly organized academic essayswhich are a mainstay in many secondary school English and history classesIn its simplest form, students proclaim an idea at the start of their ‘essay’ or ‘entry’ and then defend that idea across a paragraph by providing relevantexamples and/or reasons. This description of writing should sound familiar because it is what kids are required to do on the ELA.In its more complex form, students still proclaim an idea, but this time theyelaborate upon the idea with subordinate ideas, each of which is developed anddefended, usually resulting in a multi-paragraph text.This work is more challenging when the central idea is complex and when it iselaborated through subordinate ideas, and it is also more challenging when the
3-5 Writing, Page 2Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, Copyright 2003-2004
NYC Regions 3, 4, 8 & 10 may duplicate these for educators within those Regions only.