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English Online. Every child literate - a shared responsibility.
Ministry of Education.

Learning task 3: Exploratory activities B

Using Writing Models

 Choose a writing_models (RTF 6KB) to share with the class. eg. camp contexts:

 School Journals:
 o The Confidence Course by Nellie Islon
 o Courage by Vanessa Effendi
 o Rock Climbing by Sarah Dyck
 o Water Slide
 o Snowboarding by Hayden Finlayson
 o River Bugs by Jan Trafford
 o The Big Jump by Philip Walker
 (see Resources)
 National Exemplar Project
 o The Diving Board

Select the language and text features that will be the focus for this model from the list of suggestions below, or others you may have already identified from your teaching programme and children's needs, eg:

The Confidence Course by Nellie Ison
Journal of Young Peoples' Writing 1995 The Secret Lake
Possible language features for this personal recount text:
 * Personal voice
 * Sentence structure - short simple sentences to create tension/atmosphere, eg. 'I was stiff.' 'I froze.'
 * First Person using the personal pronoun - I
 * Repetitive use of I
 * Inner monologue, eg.' "Mum!" I was calling in my mind. '
 * Past tense, eg. 'I was stiff', 'grabbed',' ran'
 * Showing feelings with detail, eg. 'Tears trickled down my cheeks.'
 * Repetition, eg. 'One foot in front of the other, one foot at a time.'
 * Hyphens, eg. 'ankle-deep', 'three-wire', 'right-hand'
 * Ellipsis, eg.' I did the same with the other hand...then put both feet'
 * Dash, eg. 'I let go and felt so good - I knew I could do it again.'

Shared Reading

 If copyright allows photocopy a copy of the writing model for each student.

  • Glue the copy into their draft writing books.
  • Read the model aloud with the students.
  • Talk generally about the writing at first, eg. What is it about? What genre is it written in? How do you know? Who do you think it is written for? Why do you think the author wrote it? What impact does this piece of writing have on you? What do you like about this writing?
  • Use a highlighter to identify language features in a close reading session with the class.

Close reading

Students need to become familiar with different text forms and recognise that these have different structures. They need to become familiar with:

  • the purpose of the text,
  • the differences in language and structure,
  • different ways of presenting information.

Non Fiction texts - Reading for Information

Expose students to:

  • Resources that provide opportunities for students to discover, explore, and extend understandings and skills through cooperative or independent experiences.
  • Resources that have a range of text forms and recording information - directions, instructions, questions & answers, diagrams, tables, charts, graphs, maps, codes/keys. Enable students to select, gather, sort, summarise and record information for themselves.

Through reading, talking, exploring, and experimenting students can present their findings in a variety of visual texts such as maps, time lines, flow charts, venn diagrams, as well as a range of written texts such as explanations, instructions, reports, recounts, arguments,

Teachers will be able to integrate literacy learning with learning in other areas of the curriculum.

Develop confidence and competence in students, encourage and give support, model, guide, share, reflect, to develop INDEPENDENCE.

Teachers should plan a balance of the following approaches throughout the unit. Shared Reading - Guided Reading - Independent Reading - of selected, fiction or non-fiction texts, to demonstrate the ways structure assists the reader to gain information, using and discussing features such as title, table of contents, headings and subheadings, pictures and their captions, diagrams, index and glossary.

Skills to develop through close reading of transactional texts: questioning, summarising, analysing, making inferences, reflecting, imagining, hypothesising, sequencing, classifying, clarifying, predicting, interpreting.

Encourage students to find and list verbs, effective adjectives, explicit nouns, adverbs, similes and metaphors that help achieve meaning/feeling. Talk about sentence structure, punctuation.

Throughout the reading and writing programme there should be teacher modelling and student activities to develop the skills and strategies in the use of dictionaries, thesauri, and atlases.

Writing Focus Feature for the Day

Each day focus on one particular feature for the writing session. Do not try to focus on too many features at once. It is best to have one main focus for the day or writing session that you keep returning to in the discussion, and just noting other features spontaneously in passing. Choose from a variety of possible language and text features. Select these on class and individual student needs, their next learning steps. Possible topics will present themselves as you rove the classroom during writing time, conference and talk with the writers, listen to sharing times, analyse writing models to use with the students, and take time to read and reflect on their writing books at the end of the day.

Examples of possible language and text features for focus in personal recount writing:

Powerful Verbs
Identify powerful verbs in writing models. Discuss how these describe actions specifically, give more detail and create a picture in the reader's mind that reflects the writer's ideas more accurately. They also make writing more interesting and help build atmosphere and mood. Make class lists of powerful, descriptive verbs and display them, eg. words for slow movements/fast movements, words to show how you can speak, climb, swim. Select actions that relate to the writing contexts of the time. Model how the thesaurus is a useful tool for finding 'just the right' verb.

Linking Time Words
Identify linking time words in recount models. Discuss where they are usually found, eg. beginning of sentences, and what their purpose is, eg. to show the passing of time usually in chronological order and to link the ideas and events together coherently. Make and display lists of for future reference.

Personal Voice
Identify sections of language (words/phrases/sentences), in writing models that show personal voice. Discuss how these show the writer's 'own voice', their thoughts and feelings. What do you notice about these that are similar? What type of language is used when we hear the writer's personal voice? How does it make you feel as a reader? the audience? Discuss how sometimes it is easy to lose your personal voice when you try too hard to find new, different and more interesting words to use in your writing. Don't let too many changes when you edit take away your personal voice.

Sentence Structures
Identify models of short and long sentences. Discuss where they are used and what effect they create, eg. short sentences create an atmosphere of action, speed and tension. Longer sentences flow more gently and create an atmosphere of gentleness, relaxation, and boredom.

Use the language of sentences as they become more familiar with them, ie. simple sentences, compound sentences, complex sentences, used in the National Exemplar Project Indicators.

Choose a different sentence structure for your focus each day, eg. today we are going to see if we can write a compound sentence in our writing. Can you find one in the model? How do you know it is a compound sentence? Why has the writer used it here?

Figurative Language
Choose an example of figurative language that is used well in your writing model, eg. alliteration, onomatopoeia, personification, metaphor, simile. Identify the examples of it and discuss them. Why has the writer used them here? How did it help you as a reader to get meaning from the text? Can you think of any others we could use? eg. make a list of similes that could be used to describe the cold night air as you ventured out on the torch walk.

Personal Pronouns
Discuss the word class: personal pronouns. What are they? Where are they used? Why are they used? The 'Peter passage' in Exploring Language is a good example to use to demonstrate the need for pronouns! Have some fun writing some passages without pronouns, using only proper nouns, like this passage. Read them aloud! Write some as a shared activity or in pairs and then swap them with another pair to edit. Make a list of personal pronouns. What do we mean by the first person? second person? third person? Role model this with a small group, changing from first to second/third person depending on who is telling the (same) story in the group. Look for personal pronouns in the writing model being used.

Inner monologue
What is inner monologue? Revisit the thought bubbles made and on display. Talk about how you could include these in recount writing. Identify some examples in the writing model. How is inner monologue presented? Eg. italics, after an ellipsis, in short sentences, in parenthesis. How does inner monologue show the writer's own voice? Where could you use inner monologue? What might you say/write? Will it depend whom the audience is?

Detailed Descriptions
Find a part where the writer had added detail. Discuss how they have done this. What language features did they use? eg. adjectives, adverbs, powerful verbs, figurative language. Look for specific nouns, eg. totara instead of tree, and specific verbs, eg. scramble instead of climb. This is a way to add detail without adding in extra words. Look for descriptive colour words, eg. corn-yellow moon. Find a part where some more detail could be added, a part where you were left wondering as a reader. What questions did you want to ask the writer? Have the 5W's and H questions on cards, and on display or readily available. Use them often to encourage writers to add more detail. What? Why? How? When? Where? Which? If detail is your focus for the day/week, then blutack these cards along the top of your teaching station. Refer to them often in "writing talk".

Recount Structure
Discuss and model a for the structure and layout of a recount. From close reading of recounts identify the text features common to many recounts. eg.

Is the writer's intention to tell the reader what happened?

Does the writing begin with an orientation, (who, when, where)?
Are the events sequenced in chronological order?
Are there personal comments on the events (the kite flying day was fantastic)?

Are the participants referred to specifically, (Mary, the teacher, the boys)?
Is it written in the simple past tense?
Are linking items to do with time used to give coherence (after lunch, at the same time, as soon as she left)?
Is irrelevant information omitted?

These usually retell an event that the writer was personally involved in.
Does the writer use personal pronouns, (I, we)?
Are personal responses included?
Are details chosen to add interest?

These usually record particulars about a specific event.
Does the writer use third person pronouns (he, she, it, and they)?
Are details selected to help the readers reconstruct the activity accurately?

If this is new to students, give them a photocopied model of a written recount; making sure the model is a personal and not a factual recount. Highlight and label the parts that make up a recount, eg. first highlight the introductory paragraph one colour and label it introduction or orientation. Identify the features of the introduction. NB. personal recounts do not always adhere as closely to set text structures as factual recounts, but these give students good guides from which to springboard as their writing knowledge and skills grow. Do not let these planning structures inhibit students who already have a grasp of text structure from being creative writers.

Identify the opening sentence. How does this writing begin? eg. with some action, a description of the scene, someone's feelings, a flashback... What effect does this have on you as a reader? Does it grab your attention? Make you what to read more? Leave you in suspense? Give you background information?

Focus on the ending sentence(s), or paragraph. Does the writing feel finished? Did it leave you still wondering? Did you feel that it had come to a satisfactory ending? Why? Which words made you feel this? How do other writers bring their work to an ending? Have you a suggestion for this writer?

Comparing speaking and writing
Record one student as they tell their anecdote. Transcribe some of this literally word for word, including utterances. Read it back in a monotone and discuss: What do you notice? What is missing? (the changes in tone, stress, volume, facial expressions, non-verbal language, are not shown)

Discuss: What happens when you write down an oral anecdote? When we write do we write exactly as we speak? Why not? What is the difference between spoken and written language? How can we show the tone of the voice? pauses? loudness? facial expressions? non-verbal language? (with graphic cues, eg. punctuation, bold print, italics, capital letters, fonts, paragraphing...) What did these features do for the audience when they listened? Why is it important to show these features in writing too? Model some examples using graphic cues. Find some examples of graphic cues in the writing model and talk about them, eg. why has the writer used these dots here? What do we call these? Where could you use them?

Introducing language and text features:

  1.  Introduce the language or text feature when you are looking at and discussing a writing model.
  2.  Identify, maybe highlight on photocopied text.
  3.  Record some on class charts and lists for future reference.
  4.  Discuss their use in writing: Where? How? When? Why?
  5.  Encourage students to use the correct terminology in their discussions, so that they are building up a vocabulary that they can use to describe and discuss written language, a writing metalanguage.
  6.  Expect students to try to use the feature in their writing that day (and in the future of course!).
  7.  Look for them in their own writing at the end of the daily writing session, eg. in a sharing circle, each student finds and highlights one example of the focus language feature for that day in their draft writing book. Share these with the class.
  8.  Select some students to add theirs to the class chart or list on display.
  9. Add to the charts and lists as the students discover more throughout the year.

Published on: 06 Apr 2009