Common Core Part 2: Moving Forward with Informational Text
Applying Text Structures in Writing
Once students are familiar with a text structure and can recognize it readily in texts that they read, you can reinforce the concepts by applying the structure to items that they write. As you did with reading, model writing with specific structures first. Gradually release more and more responsibility to students as you move from teacher think-alouds to shared work, guided practice, and finally independent writing. Use opportunities such as a class newsletter or blog post, for example to practice the description structure, perhaps about a field trip or guest speaker. Have students prepare short written pieces about a topic or concept they are learning about in one of the content areas.
Science experiments or math problems lend themselves nicely to sequential structures. Have students write a piece for their portfolios or in a Friday note to parents highlighting activities of the week. The Utah Education Network has some excellent support materials for teaching text structure in science writing to older elementary students.
Use your Morning Message as a vehicle for modeling a particular structure. Perhaps there is a problem that needs solving in your classroom community. Inform students of the problem in your message, and explore solutions for it together, building a short essay in the problem-and-solution format. Focus on the solutions, fully explaining one in detail before moving on to another.
For teachers of younger elementary students, pair up with another teacher to write compare-and-contrast essays. Brainstorm questions about a buddy classroom's daily routines and send a small delegation to gather answers. Likewise, answer questions about your own daily classroom life for the other class. Write a group essay comparing one classroom to the other, focusing on the most important similarities and differences and then compare essays!
Readwritethink.org provides an interactive webbing tool and an Essay Map that might be useful for students as they plan their thoughts for writing. A compare and contrast interactive Venn diagram is also available there. A drag-and-drop procedure (with a video tutorial) is used to build a diagram with important details about two items, and it can be reviewed, edited, and then printed. (Note that this tool uses Flash so will not work on iPads.)
Paragraph frames like this or those in this collection can be used as a beginning step as students venture into applying structures in their writing. Tweak for your purposes as necessary, and remember that the goal is not for students to simply fill in blanks, but to internalize the structures so that eventually they use them without the support that frames provide.