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Writing ITS REAL. Phyllis Hostmeyer Madison County ROE. Reading – input Reading feeds the mind. Writing – output Writing feeds the soul, organizing the mind Writing has been called the kinesthetic form of reading Students are often more reluctant to write

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Writing ITS REAL

Phyllis Hostmeyer

Madison County ROE

Reading – input

Reading feeds the mind

Writing – output

Writing feeds the soul, organizing the mind

Writing has been called the kinesthetic form of reading

Students are often more reluctant to write

Writing involves a greater risk on the part of the student

Reading Versus Writing

Read like a Writer

  • After students have read a text several times for content, read it a few times to notice the craft of writing.

  • Pay special attention to the openings and closings found in books.

  • Students will begin to imitate these openings which will help them earn focus points.

I learned how to write from writers. I didn’t know any personally, but I read.” Cynthia Rylant.

Just read for about four years before you even start. Read everything you can get your hands on. Gary Paulsen

Why teach writing

  • Writing is a route to reading.

  • Students make a connection between speaking and writing.

  • They see writing as functional – it has a purpose.

  • It builds skills in communication.

4 Problems for Writers

  • Lack of motivation

  • Lack of content knowledge

  • Automaticity

  • Writing is not talking

4 Ways to Revise

  • Add

  • Subtract

  • Rearrange

  • Combine

Writing Process

  • Prewriting

    • research

    • gathering information

    • discussions

  • Writing

  • Revision

    • the craft of writing

  • Editing

    • the rules of writing


Descriptive vs. Prescriptive

  • Teach the craft of writing.

  • Use inquiry to teach good writing.

  • Throw away those lists of rules, rules and more rules.

  • Make writing a celebration of language not a drudgery of grammar.

  • Keep the teaching of writing grounded in writing, not in a grammar book.









  • Effective Opening

  • Strong Closing

  • Stay on Topic

The opening provides an opportunity for the writer to help the reader to make connections.

Topic vs. Focus

Topic vs. Focus


Powerful openings

Effective Closings


Support Sentences

Title: Sky

Support Sentences

Title: Dessert

Support Sentences

Title: Cars

Support Sentences

Title: Baseball

Support Sentences

Title: Special Buildings (weak support)

Support Sentences

Title: Special Buildings

Support Sentences

Title: Dr. Seuss

Support Sentences

Title: Dr. Seuss

Support Sentences

Title: Baseball

Support Sentences


I like to play baseball.

I like to be the catcher. I get to wear a face mask. I make signs to the pitcher. Sometimes I tag players at the plate.

I like to bat. I swing the bat as hard as I can. Then I take off and run the bases.

Baseball is fun.

Title: Cars

Support Sentences


Cars help us to go places.

We drive cars to the stores. We take our car to the grocery store. If we want a video at night, we drive our car to the store.

We also drive our car to school. When it rains, my grandma takes us to school in her car. Sometimes I oversleep and then Grandma takes me to school in her car.

Cars take us many places.

Statement of Fact

Some trees are over 4000 years old. They are the oldest living things on earth. That means that trees have been helping people for a lot of years. They can help us to breathe. Trees also help us by giving us medicines.

Figurative Language - Metaphor

A huge oak tree stands guard outside my bedroom window. Sometimes, I imagine that it is a soldier that protects me from harm. Imagine my surprise when I recently learned that trees really do protect and help us. I learned that they give us oxygen to help us breathe and they even give us medicine to keep us healthy.

Figurative Language - Simile

Trees can sway like a ballerina when the wind blows through their leaves. When the wind blows hard, trees can shake their branches like an angry person. But the best thing trees can do is to help us by giving us oxygen and medicines.

Figurative Language - Simile

The oak tree in our backyard is as tall as a giant. I realize that these giants help us every day. They give us oxygen to breathe. They give us medicines to keep us from getting sick.

Figurative Language - Onomatopoeia

Crack! Crash! I watched my dad cut down the huge oak tree that had been damaged by the storm. It made me sad to see the tree die because I know how much trees help us. I know that trees provide oxygen for us to breathe and they give us medicines.

Figurative Language - Personification

The old oak tree in our backyard cradled me in its arms. I felt as safe as a baby. I sat there and thought about the many ways that trees make all of our lives better. Trees help us to breathe. Trees also help us by giving us medicines.


We climbed to the clubhouse constructed in the branches of the oak tree. My friends and I have lots of fun in that clubhouse. But trees give us lots more than just a place to have fun. Trees give us oxygen to help us breathe, and they give us medicines to keep us healthy.

Open with a Bold Statement

People should think twice before ever cutting down a tree. They need to think because trees help us every day. First, trees help us to breathe. Trees also help us by giving us medicines.

Open with a Definition

Webster defines a tree as a woody perennial plant having a single long stem with few or no branches on the lower part. I define a tree as something that helps us. Trees help us to breathe. Trees also help us by giving us medicines.

Open with a Personal Definition

In the fall when we rake leaves, my dad defines a tree as a plant that creates lots of work for us. I define a tree as a plant that gives us lots of help. Trees help us to breathe. Trees give us oxygen and medicine to keep us healthy.

Definition Format

My dad defines a ________ as a _______________ . I define a _______________ as

________________________ .

Open with a Question

Have you ever wondered about how much trees help us? Did you know that trees help us to breathe better? I’ll bet you didn’t know that trees also help us by giving us medicines.

Open with a Quote

Joyce Kilmer wrote, “I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree.” I like looking at the trees too, and this year I learned that trees give us a lot of help. First, they help us to breathe. Second, they give us medicine.

Open with a Personal Quote

My aunt says that trees make a house beautiful. I agree, trees do make a house beautiful, but they also make our home healthy. Every day trees give us oxygen to breathe. They also give us medicines to keep us healthy.

Open with a Setting

As we sat around the picnic table, we laughed as falling leaves drifted onto our sandwiches and salads. As I enjoyed the fall colors, I thought about how much trees give to us. I know that trees give us oxygen to breathe, but I recently learned that they also give us medicines.

When should your students write these strong openings?

After the first rough draft

It's your turn

Statement of FactBold statement




Personification Personal Quote


Bulletin Board Display

Changing the Closings

Opening: I like Six Flags for two reasons. First, they have great rides that flip me upside down. I also like Six Flags because they have the yummiest food.

Closing: I like Six Flags for two reasons. First, they have great rides that flip me upside down. I also like Six Flags because they have the yummiest food.

Repeated closing

Opening: I like Six Flags for two reasons. First, they have great rides that flip me upside down. I also like Six Flags because they have the yummiest food.

Closing: I can’t wait for out next trip to Six Flags. I hope their wild rides don’t upset my stomach when I find myself looking at the world upside down. Because besides enjoying the rides, I plan on enjoying bunches of snacks and goodies. Six Flags is a great vacation day.

Restated closing

Be sure to take care of your trees. Give them water and fertilizer when they need it. If you take good care of them, those trees will give you lots of good things in return.

Reminder Statements

Reminder Statement

Remember, we all admire the colors of the trees in the fall and the cool shade they give us in the summer. So let’s make sure we do everything we can to keep trees healthy and strong.

Final Statement - Eventuality

You can do one last thing if you want to learn more about trees. You can visit www.arborday.com to see pictures of trees and read about them. You can even buy trees to make your yard nicer. Trees are our friends.

Closing with a Quote

I never knew why my grandpa always said, “If a tree dies, plant another in its place.” Now I know how much trees help us. I think I will follow Grandpa’s good advice.

Author’s Feelings

I feel strongly about protecting trees and keeping them strong. Every day they give us so much to keep us healthy. I like trees and want everyone else to like them too.

Closing with a

Personal Comment

We need to plant lots of trees so that we can enjoy clean air. Trees help keep us healthy by helping us fight colds and headaches. Trees are our friends.


I’ll bet now that you know how important trees are, you will rush out to plant more of them in your yard. From now on you will look as trees as close personal friends.

Closing with a Question

Wouldn’t you like to make your life healthier? Why not look around your yard and find some places to plant a few more trees?

Summary Closing

Because of trees, we lead healthier lives. Clean air and medicines to make us feel better are just two of the many gifts we get from trees.

It's your turn

Repeated closingRestated closing

Reminder statementsFinal statement

Closing with a quoteAuthor’s feelings

Closing with a personal commentPrediction

Closing with a questionSummary Closing


  • Word choice enhances specificity

  • Second order support of ideas

Determine Importance

Determine Importance – Visualize – Vocabulary



  • Sentence Variety

  • Appropriate Transitions

  • Coherence

  • Cohesion

Graphic organizers and structures of text will help the students to develop good organization skills.

Sentence Patterns

Comparison Organizer

Signal Words: on one hand, similarly, but, then, either … or

Sequence Organizer

Signal Words: now, then, first, second, next, finally, while

Topic Description Organizer

Signal Words:

generally, most important, in fact, specifically, for instance, for example

Cycle Organizer:

Signal Words: now, then, next, finally, while, first, second

Problem/Solution Organizer

Signal Words:

since, as a result, this led to, because, so, if . . . then







Signal Words: because, since, therefore, consequently, hence

Transitions in Retells


  • Read a text

  • Highlight the transitions

    • look for phrases, not just words

    • look for repetitions

    • look for transition paragraphs (winkers)

Modern Hygiene’s Dirty Trick



Typical Writing Assignment

  • Write a 3 page report on one of the following topics. You must have at least 3 resources in your bibliography.

    • Cloning

    • Hurricane Proof Buildings

    • Stabilization of heat-labile vaccines

    • Microbiology

Aspects of Assignments

  • Length (depth and breadth)

  • Focus (controlling idea)

  • Task (key action word)

  • Detail(specifics)

  • Tone(language and style)

  • Terms(word bank)

Writing Task

  • What problem am I asking students to solve?

  • What questions am I asking students to answer?

  • What connections am I asking students to make?

  • What causes and effects am I asking them to find?

  • What conclusions and implications am I asking them to draw?

Length of Assignment

  • Do not ask for a specific number of words or pages – students will stretch and repeat

  • Ask for density of information

  • Require a certain number of paragraphs developed with facts, reasons, analysis, examples, causes, specific information

  • Ask for details and insights

Task: Key Words

  • Use Bloom’s Taxonomy

    • Describe the types of respiratory structures found in arthropods

    • Explain the relationship between an arthropods’ respiratory structure and survival

    • Analyze which respiratory structures are best suited for land and which are best suited for water


  • Offer opportunities for synthesis with other content areas

  • Can new knowledge be created

    • This reminds me of

    • I feel (make a moral judgment)

  • Put the topic into a historical context when needed


  • Include numbers in the assignment: give 2 reasons, identify 4 types, explain 3 ways

  • Use proper nouns: names, dates, places, technical terms, statistics,

  • If the concept is abstract use a picture or vivid language to help students visualize


  • Will this be a formal piece of writing or something more casual?

    • Diary

    • Journal

    • Essay

    • Letter to editor

    • Readers Theater

    • Poetry

    • Directions


  • Provide the students with a word bank of 10 – 20 words that are specific to the topic

Weak Assignment

  • Write a two page report describing the spice routes and their influence on the Age of Exploration. Use 2 sources.

  • Students could just draw a map

  • Does not ask why spices were important

  • Is the focus on Europe or international?

  • What about the effects of the spice trade?

Strong Assignment

  • The spice trade routes played an important part in the Age of Exploration. Copy a map of the routes and explain at least two of them with a well-developed paragraph for each route. Explanation should include 4 geographic features and how those features influenced travelers. Why were spices important in the 15th century? Give specific examples of 2 spices and their uses.

  • Challenge: Consider the unexpected dangers that lay in wait on these routes.

Weak Assignment

  • Write a 10 page research paper on cloning. Describe the process and make a prediction: Will humans ever be cloned? What would be the advantages and disadvantages of cloning humans?

Strong Assignment

Write a research paper of 25 paragraphs discussing the process and ethical dilemmas of cloning. Four – five paragraphs should deal with the process & background information. In the remaining paragraphs pose 3 specific cases in which cloning would be acceptable or unacceptable to you. Examples should be realistic, well-developed, and vexing. Avoid the obviously objectionable – cloning people in order to harvest body parts to sell.

Challenge: What role will economics play in the moral dilemma of cloning?

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