20somethingkids and 1kookyteacher

Informational Writing Lessons

Remember when I wrote about what had been going on with Narrative Writing Lessons a little while ago? That post was actually one that I used in my class with my kids (an idea I stumbled upon last year in a grad class I was taking), and this one is instead a roundup-and-reflection type post that I do a lot around here after we try some new things.

We started our informational unit in a similar way that we ended our Narrative unit: with an on-demand writing piece:

We began by looking at lots of nonfiction texts, recording what we noticed about them:

Then we began a very exciting and learning-filled journey into the genre of informational text, focusing on how writers organize their writing, write for their intended audience and use text features meaningfully.  I’ll tell the rest of the story in pictures.  Be sure to check out the captions! (This is all about text features, after all!)

This was the first of two informational text units we’re doing, and we focused on just things we knew a lot about–that we were “experts” on. Here is our Rm. 202 Expert List, compiled from everyone’s individual lists.

After we built our expert lists, we spent some time working with some ideas on those lists to see which ones we liked best. We worked on deciding what our reader would be interested in knowing more about. This chart shows how we focused on questions that we could answer, as well as creating trees or webs to organize subtopics.

This was one of my favorite (and impromptu!) lessons from this unit. As we considered what info the reader would be interested in knowing about, we had to think about who our AUDIENCE really was supposed to be. This chart shows a strategy we tried: we picked two completely different audiences and recorded how the subtopics/questions would be different based on the reader. Check out the difference between how you’d write about shoes for a fashion designer and a kid. 🙂 They had some pretty great ideas, huh?

After we spent a couple of days trying out seed ideas and strategies for nurturing them, we were ready to pick a seed, plan around it and then draft! Drafting was a quick process, and meant to just get the ideas initially down on paper. We would begin the work of cleaning up the messy parts as the next step! (and just in case you’re wondering, I was out of the classroom this day and my sub made this chart instead of me. 🙂 )


After we had flash drafted our initial ideas, we worked on creating interesting leads…

…and then focused in on writing paragraphs to organize our subtopics into chunks that made sense to our readers. We did this over several days because it was hard, confusing work for many of us.

First try at a paragraph with topic sentence, 3 details and a conclusion. We wrote this one together.

Another paragraph. This one is colored coded to try to help writers see each part (although I wish I had written the topic sentence in green since it’s how you GO…too late now, I guess.)

One more paragraph. This one was written several days later as another example to hang for kids to reference.

While there are lots of ways to describe the structure of a 5-paragraph essay (informational report, poster, etc.), the one I go to is always a sandwich or a hamburger. Excuse my really bad attempt at art. It did the job. 🙂

Before we published, we planned out what our posters (which they made under my suggestion) would look like. They each created a “map” of where each paragraph and text feature would go.

One last step before we published was to edit (which we had a chart for, too, but I didn’t have a picture of just now).  We focused on how editing is a COURTESY TO THE READER so that they both read and understand our intended message.  Final posters were made and then we had a 5th grade writing celebration to showcase our hard work!

But wait–that wasn’t it.  Yesterday, after our celebration was finished, we sat down to do a post assessment version of the on-demand writing assignment.  It was AMAZING to see how their writing changed from the beginning to the end.  That led them to the post here,  where writers were reflecting on those changes.