The adventures of a fourth grade teacher in East Central Illinois.

Writing Something Worth Reading

Continuing on my quest to improve the opinion writing in my classroom, I used some time this afternoon to discuss boring writing.

You’ve all seen it: the words on on the page (or the screen), they are accurate, they tell what the author intended, and they are to the point. But they are also so incredibly dull!

I gave my students an example:

I like tacos. They are yummy. They are easy to make. They are nutritious.

Just like yesterday, I asked my students to rate my writing on a scale of one to five, with one being “well, at least you wrote something. even if it doesn’t make the least bit of sense!” and five being “ohmygoodnessthisisthemostamazingwritingIhaveeverseen! IamsoexcitedthatIcan’tevenstopforpausesbetweenmywords!” At first I had students who said that my paragraph should receive a one. When questioned further, though, they changed their minds and said it deserved at least a two or even a three. Here were their reasons:

  • The author’s position was clear.
  • The author provided three solid reasons to support his argument.
  • The author used proper conventions, such as spelling, capitalisation, and punctuation.

But at the same time, my students all looked at that paragraph and knew it could be better. So I asked them to help me out. I gave them the topic sentence, then they came up with the rest.

I have lived across the United States, I have visited Canada, and I have even lived in Australia. Of all the many different kinds of food I have eaten, tacos are still among my favourites! One reason I love tacos is that their juiciness is so yummy! Another reason I love tacos is because they are so easy to make. Finally, tacos are incredibly nutritious, with all of the food groups wrapped in one delicious package.

The students all agreed that this was a much more effective introduction. Just as we were finishing this, Miss C happened to stop by. We asked her to read our introduction and tell us what she thought. I think her response perfectly captured the kind of feedback we all want from our readers. She said, “Wow! I think I’m going to go get some tacos before I finish reading this!”

I left my paragraph up on the board so my students could refer to it as they worked on their own powerful introductions. I am sure that some used the same words I did, but that’s okay. That is why I had them help me write it. I want them to use my words and make them their own, adding their voices to the writing.

Tomorrow we will begin tackling the body paragraphs, focusing on using evidence and reason to support our arguments.

But first, I am going to make tacos for dinner tonight.

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