So when I came across the color-coded persuasive writing organizational system my colleague Jessica Fogel has developed with her fourth-grade class, I swooned a little. Jessica is an organizer who not only talks the talk, but walks the walk. Her classroom and her house are organized with a level of detail and good sense to which I can only aspire. She channels this trait into her teaching of writing, helping her students to develop the kind of felt sense of organization in persuasive writing that they will carry with them always. An internalized sense of organization will be particularly important as the persuasive writing they do ramps up in difficulty, which it will do, very soon.
Jessica started by channeling her students to write long to explore possible topics, a suggestion from Boxes and Bullets by Lucy Calkins, Kelly Boland Honhe and Cory Gillette. Then, the students used the writing they did to brainstorm categories.
Then, they color-coded each category.
Then, the students returned to their writing, marking up parts in the writing they had done that would serve as evidence for each category.
Color-coding is a great way to help students to see right away which categories have plenty of evidence, and which categories need more. Some students might tweak their original plans because they realize one category or another has too much or too little evidence. Others may tweak their original plans because they realize some categories are overlapping – that is, a piece of evidence can fit into more than one category.
In the Units of Study essay work, students often create physical folders in which to store the evidence they are gathering for each part of their essay. Color-coding is a nice next step. Simple, but effective.
A Note on Self-Assessment
Please comment – what other tools do you use to support students with organization in persuasive writing?
Anna is a staff developer, literacy coach, and writer, based in New York City. She taught internationally in places such as Sydney, Australia; San Pedro Sula, Honduras, and Auckland, New Zealand in addition to New York before becoming a staff developer for the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project at Columbia University (TCRWP). She has been an adjunct instructor in the Literacy Specialist Program at Teachers College, and teaches at TCRWP where she helps participants bring strong literacy instruction into their classrooms. Anna recently co-wrote Bringing History to Life with Lucy Calkins, part of the 2013 series Units of Study in Opinion, Information, and Narrative Writing (Heinemann). She has been a researcher for Lucy Calkins, contributing especially to Pathways to the Common Core (Heinemann, 2012) and Navigating Nonfiction (Heinemann, 2010).