Pumping Up Our Informational Writing!

Sunday, February 8, 2015
We have been busy digging into informational writing in my classroom! The first thing I focused on was strong sentence building.  We had just finished up learning how to write simple, compound, and complex sentences.  The students did great with that lesson, however I decided to do a FEW more things to help them along.
Mini-Lesson #1: Strong Sentences
First, since the students had previously written about photosynthesis, I decided to do a little mini-lesson on strong sentences.  We actually discussed what a 4, 3, 2,  and 1 sentence looked like. We decided on the following sentence rubric.
Sentence Rubric: 
4=Above and Beyond
3=Proficient/Grade Level
2=Needs to Improve
1=Below Grade Level
I felt like this was a GREAT visual example for the students to be able to 
refer to for their next writing task!

Mini-Lesson #2: Avoiding Writer's Block!
Do your students ever tell you that they don't know what to write about or that they are done??? WRITER'S BLOCK! I explain to my students that we ALL get writer's block at some time or another, even teachers and adults.  SO, the students and I thought of different types of writer's block (getting distracted was a biggie that a lot of students could relate too!) and possible problem solving tactics for when they are feeling stuck.  We made the chart below...

Mini-Lesson #3: Writing Strong Beginnings
When I work on writing with my students, I always base my mini-lessons on the criteria that they will be graded on.  Where do I find the criteria? The standards!  For the past two years, we have been focusing on the Common Core State Standards, so I developed the following rubric based on those standards for Informational Writing.  The standards can be found here. You can also find the grade level rubrics in my Informational Writing Unit. (I just recently gave it a total and complete makeover!)
 So, the first standard states that the students need to introduce a topic clearly and provide general focus to group related information logically to aide comprehension.  To me, this means to introduce a topic clearly, but ALSO in an interesting way.  I always tell my students that you really should captivate the reader's attention in the first couple sentences so that the reader WANTS to read your paper!  

The first thing I do is group the students into groups of 4 and give a DIFFERENT informational texts to each group.  Each group needs to look at the first page or pages of their book and give a few ratings.  The students get SOOOO excited that they are critiquing PUBLISHED big time authors!!

Rating PUBLISHED Authors 
#1: Did the reader capture your attention? 
4  3  2  1
#2: Did you want to continue reading after the first few sentences? 
4  3  2  1
#3: How would you change the beginning to make it more interesting?
(Open Ended Question)

Next, we share our responses and I record the different types of beginnings that the students find.  I also like to refer to these pre-made Engaging Beginning Posters (from my Informational Writing Unit) as the students discover them! (Poster/Hand Out Pic Below)
Next, I have the students PRACTICE writing engaging beginnings.  I give them the following worksheet (which is part of my Informational Writing Unit, but I made it free for you all today!)  The students choose 3 engaging beginnings that they would like to practice.  When they have completed writing them, they choose 3 friends to VOTE on the beginning that they felt captured their interest the MOST! Click on the link below to get this sample from my unit to use with your students!
Next, I need to make sure that my students have enough background information and resources to use for their first drafts.  We are currently writing about the 13 colonies, so I actually incorporated CLOSE READING into the students research.  We read the passage below on the New England Colonies.  They also needed to get 2 other resources.  
After the students gather the research that they need, they start their PRE-WRITES!  I use the 4 SQUARE graphic organizer that you see below.  
When the students finish this outline see above, they are off to start their first drafts (which I will be writing about in my next post! How do you start informational writing in your classroom?


  1. Thanks for sharing!! I can always use more writing ideas!!! :-)

  2. LOVE the freebie! Thanks

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  4. You have some excellent ways of challenging your students. I had been using some of the February writing prompts at http://monthbymonth.scholastic.com/teach.html, but will use them in a more focused way for the remainder of the month and next year. I especially liked writing engaging beginnings.

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