Sunday, July 15, 2007

Organization: Where do you find the best leads?

Michael LaCerra: If you think about it, whenever a student read a novel, s/he has probably read a half-way decent lead about it---where? The back cover.

So, in helping students lead the reader into the body of their writing, I actually focus on reading. For part of the school year, students write their own leads for the independent reading they have finished. They put presentation touches on them, too, and then they go in a big 3-ring binder in my room where others can reference when looking for a book to read.

By using this process at the beginning of the year (with reading), I am usually able to quickly transfer these concepts over to writing instruction during Q2. Ongoing, students reinforce these skills by turning their leads into podcasts. Our school's server is being updated at the moment, so I cannot share an example--sorry.

In the end, students are learning effective writing strategies almost without even realizing it until we focus on it--kind of funny.

In teaching 8th graders, the far more challenging aspect is helping students improve their endings. So many of the strategies are the same as leads, but I have never been happy with my instruction or the students products. Any ideas? Thanks.

And lastly, I primarily focus on having my students use sophisticated transitions as opposed to "first, second, last". I have used this in the past for: VOICE, transitions, dialogue, and word choice.

Start at the 35 sec mark...or have students re-inact it...just a thought.--mL

Monday, July 9, 2007

Ideas & Voice

Let me share Audrey's response to the following question: --"Wouldn't a piece that has well developed ideas usually contain voice?"

She helps us see the interactions and differences clearly:

I started wondering about this very same question as I was scoring "The Note".

My first thinking was that a piece with voice = 4 or 5 would also have a high score for ideas. Topic focus and selection of relevant, compelling, personal (experiential) details are shared by both voice and ideas.

But #1: Would it be possible to have a piece of writing where the author is very engaging and personal (Voice 4 or 5) but the ideas are just a string of wonderings grouped together, a broad range of topics (Ideas 3 or 2)?

But #2: Would it be possible to have a piece of writing where the the topic is narrow; the writer speaks from experience, giving quality details; and the reader's questions are anticipated and answered, (Ideas 4 or 5) yet the writing is sincere but impersonal and lacking risk (Voice 3)?

Perhaps a high score for Voice or Ideas would mean at least a 3 or 4 for the other trait of this pair?

What do you think?

Are there any examples you can think of?