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A Pre-Writing Suggestion that Challenges Deep Thinking
applying, analyzing, evaluating, or creating during the pre-writing step of the writing process

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A Pre-Writing Strategy:

Recess Talk among Students in Different Classes

This activity is shared during the Northern Nevada Writing Project's inservice classes and workshops.

In Northern Nevada, we offer inservice workshops designed to help teachers strengthen their use of authentic pre-writing strategies.

Donald Grave's A Fresh Look at Writing is always an inspirational resource we share from during our classes. It provides a great philosophy on the topic of pre-writing.

Explanation of/Rationale for this Activity:

Students need to talk about their writing ideas long before they commit their rough drafts to lined pieces of paper. Teachers need to direct them to talk more (and better) as part of the pre-writing process. Talking about story or essay ideas before writing them, and this is especially true for language-learners in your classroom, improves rough draft writing significantly.

In Northern Nevada, our NNWP provides year-long support on-site to many of our schools. With us, an entire staff works throughout the year to improve upon their writing instruction, setting personal goals and collaborating with like-grade level teachers around those goals.

When we work with a whole school, we often require collaboration among the grade levels. Because too often we teach in isolation, we challenge each grade level to choose a lesson that they can all agree to teach at the same time; this allows them to plan resources before teaching it, debrief while teaching it, and plan lesson modifications after teaching it. Many more ideas about teaching writing well are discovered when teachers collaborate while teaching the same lesson. We truly believe this in Northern Nevada, and we hope you believe it as well.

Our Writing Lesson of the Month archive is a great collection of solidly-built lessons that grade levels can agree to teach at the same time. If that list seems too long, here is a list of five lessons we share with teachers when encouraging them to select a lesson to collaborate on.

Once a lesson is selected, it is important for the teachers to modify and adapt the lesson's parts together. One of the questions we ask them to consider when modifying and adapting one of WritingFix's posted lessons is:

What are five or six pre-writing strategies we can use with this lesson in the week(s) before we have students create their rough drafts?

Collaborative teams often surprise themselves with new ways for having students talk to each other while going through this process. Here is a very solid idea for collaborative talking thought up by teachers we worked with in the past:

Since all the grade level teachers are working on the same lesson at the same time, the following instruction is possible:

"We've been working on pre-writing strategies all week for our upcoming writing assignment. You all have a graphic organizer filled out, and you all have told several of your fellow classmates about the story you're planning to write. At recess today, you need to find another student not in our class but in our same grade level and ask them to tell you about his/her story. That's right, the other classes are working on this same writing lesson, and you can share story ideas outside of our classroom's walls. When you come back in from recess, everyone has to tell their table groups about the story you heard about over recess today. The story must come from a student in our grade level but not in our class. Understand? Excellent. Have fun talking with a student you wouldn't be able to talk to in our classroom."

Extensions for this Activity:

Rough drafts, second drafts, or final drafts from one class can be exchanged with another class since they are writing the same assignment. This builds the concept of "writing for a real audience." The purpose of the exchange can be any of the following:

  • Students can highlight "golden lines" or favorite sentences in drafts from students not in their own classroom. When returned, the teacher can share just the golden lines out loud with the class in order to talk about what makes some sentences stand out more than others, which is a great revision technique;
  • Students can fill out Response Post-it® Note-sized templates for students not in their own classroom in order to encourage revision;
  • Students can read each other's final drafts from different classrooms then provide an illustration for the story they read on another piece of paper. Teachers can hang all the illustrations they receive from the other class up, and students can have a fun time figuring out which illustration must be linked to their final drafts. Students can then be asked to create their own original illustrations for their own story, and perhaps the other students' illustrations will inspire the shape of the students' own illustrations.


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