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3-5 Non Narrative (Dec)

3-5 Non Narrative (Dec)

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Published by: bgeller4936 on Aug 24, 2009
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Grades 3-5Unit 4 – Non-Narrative Writing
Dear Teachers,In the next few pages, I provide you with some help teaching a unit of study on non-narrative writing. Instead of recreating events through narrative (or story) writing, your students will now teach readers what they know and/or think. Instead of zooming in on‘one time when…’ and recreating those episodes through chronologically ordered texts,your students will now write texts which are held together because the content of eachtext will address an over-arching topic or idea and because each text will be structuredinto categories, each of which represents either a sub-topic or a subordinate idea.The decision to work on non-narrative writing doesn’t set your course. This is a broadumbrella and includes personal essay writing, feature articles, editorials, persuasiveessays, non-fiction books, literary essays, etc. Which of this writing will you choose asyour focus? The decision is yours to make.At the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, we tend to believe that it is helpfulto always think about what we want students to be able to do in the end, and then to think about what students can already do with independence and ease, and to plan teachingwhich begins where students are now and scaffolds their progress towards where we wantthem to go.In your school, you probably sent some teachers to a day designed for those who teachgrades 2-3 who wanted to learn about helping kids write information books. You probably also sent teachers to a day designed to teach them to help kids write non-narrative essays. You may be unclear which option suits you and your children best. Itwill help you to understand that some kinds of non-narrative writing are easier for kidsthan other kinds. You can think about the gradient of difficulty (or rising ladder of difficulty) in this way.Information Writing Around Topics of Personal ExpertiseEven very young children can learn to take a topic of personal expertise (for onechild, this might be cocker spaniels and for another, soccer) and divide each topicinto subtopics (getting a cocker spaniel, feeding a cocker spaniel, training acocker spaniel) and write a chapter on each sub-topic, putting appropriateinformation into each chapter and writing in ways which combine facts and ideas.Later in the year, in a unit on writing all-about books, we will help K-2 childrenhave a go at this sort of writing, but obviously children at other grade levels cando this also. This unit has been described in the Units of Study for Primary
3-5 Writing, Page 1Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, Copyright 2003-2004
 NYC Regions 3, 4, 8 & 10 may duplicate these for educators within those Regions only.
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.
writer does not already have expertise on his or her topic. The idea could be asseemingly simple as ‘I love my mother’ or it could be ‘It’s hard to be the child of divorced parents’ but the idea could also come from close reading of a literarytext. For example, a child might write this sort of a text advancing the thesis, “Inthis coming of age story, Brian, the main character, struggles against his parents’values because he wants to establish his independence.’The writer can do this work within a personal essay, an editorial, a persuasiveessay or letter or within one of a number of other genre. Many of the challengeswhich a writer needs to address are the same across different genre of non-narrative writing. But of course, it’s easiest to start this sort of writing by writingon topics with which one has personal expertise.In this packet, I provide help with idea-based writing. In Nonfiction Writing: Proceduresand Reports from the series, Units of Study for Primary Writing: A Yearlong Curriculum,Laurie Pessah and I provide minilessons for a unit in which K-2 children work withinformation based writing. I hope that that book, plus the calendar day, can help 2
grade teachers who decide to travel that journey.You will see that the unit on idea based writing fits neatly alongside the unit onnonfiction reading in the upper grades.You’ll also see that I provide less complete help with minilessons for this unit than youhave received for some other units. I trust that you can work with colleagues across your grade level to flesh these ideas out and to adjust them to fit your students.Good luck,
 Lucy Calkins
3-5 Writing, Page 3Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, Copyright 2003-2004
 NYC Regions 3, 4, 8 & 10 may duplicate these for educators within those Regions only.

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