To help with the explain part of this method, simple graphic representations of strategies are often worth, well, more than 1,000 words. Consider popping a few of the below in your conferring toolkit or even making them on the fly as you work with kids.
Visuals to Support Narrative Writing
The image below shows a graphic designed to support elaboration and balance in narrative writing. When explaining that narrative writing often has a balance of dialogue, action, and thinking, the written words and image of a scale can solidify this concept for students. The visual also has pre-made examples to further help explain the idea.
I can’t take credit for this next one. I got the idea from a clever teacher with a breathtaking conferring toolkit. With her class, she’d been working on character traits and feelings in reading workshop. They’d made a chart with lists of possible feelings and traits. The teacher wrote all of the feelings on cards, and used them to make a visual like this one. To help the kids with showing, not telling in their narrative writing, the teacher channeled kids to look through the feeling cards, then decide which one best matched what their character was feeling in a scene. They planned what the character might do, say, or think as a result of this feeling, then went off to write their ideas into their stories.
Here are a couple of great visuals to support conventions in narrative writing. These could easily be altered for expository writing.
Visuals to Support Expository Writing
The following visual can support information writers in two ways. First, if a writer is exploring a topic toward the start of the writing process, perhaps by doing some flash-drafting, the listed structures can give the writer some ideas and entry points to help with this drafting. For example, she might compare two concepts within the topic, or compare the topic to a different topic to grow ideas. This visual can also support writers who are farther along in the writing process but who are struggling with elaboration. Using these structures to say more about a topic (or a subtopic) can be really beneficial. Note that this visual could be used to support opinion/essay writing as well.
In this interactive visual, writers revise a sample table of contents, which can be much less daunting than jumping right to revising their own. This visual certainly would help writers who need some support in doing the main idea work necessary to come up with apt and informative chapter titles. But using this visual could also help writers in another way – they might see that two of their chapters are too similar, or that they are missing a key chapter that would help to fully explain the topic.
The possibilities for teaching visuals such as these are endless. We look forward to hearing about (and possibly seeing!) some of your favorites at our Twitter chat on Monday.
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).