Monday, September 24, 2007

Ten Writing Exercises to Help Students to Improve Topic Development and Organization

Here’s a list of ideas I’ve gathered from various conferences:

1. From Picture to Words-Many beginning or lower level writers find ideas in visual sources. Keep a resource file of pictures in your classroom that “stumped” students can use to jumpstart their writing. My folder contains pictures from magazines, ads for toys, moveies and videos, posters, wordless picture books, illustrated children’s books, and art reproductions. National Geographic and Kids Discover Magazines are also great resources. Pictures can be used to create a graphic organizer or web to help students organize their ideas.

2. Sombody Else’s Pictures---Collect a few wordless books. They can help students who have problems organizing a story. Ask students to look through the book and write a story based on the pictures. If the student has problems actually writing allow them to dictate the story to you. More advanced students can be shown that several different stories can come from the same set of pictures.

3. Get to the Point-Share a piece of writing that contains so many details the reader is bored or confused. First help students identify the less important details. Then, demonstrate seveal possible revisions:

*a one- or two-sentence summary of the less important details
*deleting the less important details entirely
*adding information that makes the seemingly unnessary detail relevant to the purpose, controlling idea, or story line

4. Paragraph It-Give students multi-paragraph text that is not separated into paragraphs. Have students identify where each new paragraph should begin and explain how they know.

5. Adding Details-First do this activity as a large group so that students understand what you want. Then have them work in small groups or with a classmate. You provide a well-written, interesting topic sentence for a paragraph and have them complete the paragraph by adding four or five detail sentences. Once students have mastered this task, expand by adding details to the details.

6. How Do I Begin?-Take the same paper or text and create two different examples of beginning paragraphs. One should be ordinary and the other more developed and interesting. Have students discuss the differences and which type readers prefer. Have them apply what they’ve learned in their own writing.

7. What to write about?-At the beginning of the year when we set up our writing notebooks one of the first things I do is I share my writing topics with students that I keep in the front of my writers notebook. After I share my list I ask students to think about some of the things I had on my list they could place on theirs. This usually gets them started. The list should be anything that interests them such as people, sports, games, words they can spell, fun words, successess, lost things, scary things, joyful things, etc. Later on as the year progresses and students tell me they don’t have anything to write about I ask them to look at their topics page. It hasn’t failed yet…..

8. Building a Text-Take a well-written, short article from a children’s magazine. Cut it into sections, according to the paragraphs. Make several copies. Mix up the original order. Have students (working alone or in small groups) arrange the jumbled paragraphs in their original order. Discuss the arrangement they came up with. Focus the discussion on what the author did to connect ideas from one paragraph to the next. Use an overhead of each paragraph to point out what the author did to connect ideas and to help the reader move from one idea to the next.

9. Developing Each Part-During the drafting stage, have students write the beginning, middle, and ending on separate sheets of paper to encourage them to develop each part.

10. Read Aloud-During your daily read aloud (if you aren’t, you SHOULD!) ask students to look for particular things such as great use of adjectives, descriptions, etc. I also often ask students to focus on my speed and tone as I read and relate to me how this keeps them interested in the story, and sometimes we have no assignment at all….it’s just enough to enjoy the written word.

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