Feature Article Inquiry

Feature Article Inquire

This week I’ve been working with a team of extraordinary fourth grade teachers. They are on the brink of a unit of study based on research. I launched the unit with an inquiry into feature articles. I brought a couple of samples with me and posed the question:

What makes a feature article?

Most of the students had never heard of a feature article, so I gave them a sample, “Cat Talk,” (which Carl Anderson shared with me in a study group years ago) and said, “This is a feature article. Your job today as a writer is to make some theories about what defines a feature article.”

They went to work with pencils, highlighters, and partners. As they began to define a feature article, I encouraged them to look at some others. (We had another article, “Fake or Snake,” as well as a basket filled with magazines.) As they read a second feature article, they began to elaborate on their theories.

We set up a chart titled: Theories about Feature Articles and students added to this as they began to define and articulate their theories about feature articles.

This kind of inquiry based learning always makes me smile. It is exciting to watch students learn through discovery. They become energized and excited about the upcoming writing project.

The more I’m in Writing Workshops, the more I believe in allowing ample time for students to envision the writing they will be doing. I used to believe if students were going to write strong pieces, they needed lots of time for drafting, revising, and editing. Now I believe they need more time for envisioning and planning their writing. When writers have a solid vision for their writing, the rest of the process is “downhill,” so to speak.

How do you help your students develop a solid vision for the writing they will create?

(One more thing: I scanned the above image today as a PDF and then realized I needed it as a image file to show up as I wanted on this post. So I headed over to Zamzar to convert the image for free. I’ve used this service a handful of times and have always been pleased with the results. If you need files converted, Zamzar is the place to go!)