How Would You Respond
From this week's newsletter:
I’m eager to try something new this year. From time to time, I will present student writing in this newsletter. I'll demonstrate one way I might respond to the writer in a conference, and then list mini-lessons designed to help this student (and others in the class with the same need).
I would love your feedback on this exercise. So, I'll post this newsletter on my blog. Feel free to comment on the direction you would have gone in the conference (there are always a number of different approaches), or offer additional ideas for mini-lessons. At the very least, let me know if this exercise is helpful to you.
Yesterday we went to the new Down Street Market. I didn't know there were so many cereals! Now I do. My favorite part of the store is the free samples.
Reflect: Kaley, yesterday you went to the Down Street Market. You learned that there are lots of cereals, and you enjoyed the free samples.
Point to what the writer is doing well: Rather than simply telling the reader that the trip to the market was interesting, you gave us some specific details. (cereals, free samples) Well done!
Question to lead the writer to revision: Which part of your piece — the cereals or the samples — do you think the reader will want to hear more about?
The samples? What types of samples did you try? What did (the cheese, the gelato, the noodles) look like? How did they taste? Which were your favorites?
After Kaley revises, adding quality details (those that go beyond the obvious and general), she might expand the beginning about the cereals and transition into the samples . . . or I would support her decision to remove those two sentences (bits that don't belong).
Mini-Lessons on Expanding for Quality Details
- Project student writing such as How Much I Know About Space from the Write Source website. (Do not use your own students' work.) Ask: Did this writer include quality details? Discuss the areas (planets, rockets, lessons) that could be expanded to create a far more interesting piece.
- Share a piece you've written with your class. Include one sentence that arouses curiosity, but does not provide quality details. Ask, is there any part of my piece that you'd like to know more about? Share a revision the next day.
- Remind students that it's the job of the writer to create a movie in the mind of a reader. Choose a mentor text that creates a visual picture. For example, In Clarice Bean, That's Me, Lauren Child doesn't write, "My Dad works at an office," and leave it at that. She writes:
- He has a smart marbly office. It's wall to wall windows and office equipment. He has a swiveling chair and a desk the size of a bed. It's full of important business and you can only get to talk to him if Ms. Egglington buzzes you through.