I’ve been curious about TCRWP’s goals and techniques cards ever since I heard about them at last summer’s writing institute. I hadn’t found the guts a way to work them into one of my conferences when I visited classrooms this year — until last week. I was preparing to visit a few classrooms, one of which was writing informational essays for their school’s upcoming hobby fair. Since the students weren’t engaged in a traditional unit of study when I visited, I thought it would be okay for me to tinker with these cards for the first time. Fortunately, the students’ teacher, Sarah Columbus, gave me carte blanche to try them out with small groups of her students. (She was even nice enough to cut and laminate them for me!)
I received the goals and techniques cards from my session leaders at last summer’s writing institute. There are two pages of cards for each kind of writing: argument, informational, and narrative writers. 12 of the cards are goals cards, which contain pictures and words that explain goals each type of writer (i.e., argument, informational, and narrative) aims towards in their writing. The other 12 cards are technique cards. These cards also contain words and pictures and the provide examples of different techniques writers can use to attain a goal.
EXAMPLE: Writers might want to show the character’s motivation in a narrative piece. Some techniques narrative writers might use to accomplish that goal are flashback & flashforward, inner thinking, and first person narrator. I think that using the word by can help make sure something makes sense. For instance, I might say “I’m going to show the character’s motivation by including inner thinking” or “I’m going to show the character’s motivation by writing in the first person.” If you can’t make the link using the word by, then the technique is probably inappropriate for the goal one is trying to accomplish. For instance, “I’m going to show the character’s motivation by symbolism.”
Here’s how my ten-fifteen* minute foray into the goals and technique cards went:
- The students came to the small group session with semi-completed graphic organizers Mrs. Columbus gave them earlier in the day. I had them put aside their graphic organizers so I could show them some writing I did prior to the class session about my hobby.
- I read my flash draft about cooking to them. (NOTE: My flash draft followed the basic structure Mrs. Columbus wanted them to follow.) Next, I talked about what I could do to make my essay better. I thought-aloud about my goal as an informational writer. I flipped through the informational writing goals cards in front of the students. I settled on the card that said “introduce new topic” since I said that was primarily what I was trying to accomplish as someone writing about cooking.
- I asked myself, “What techniques could I use to do this in my writing?” I grabbed my technique cards. Even though I knew which one I wanted to use, I went through the process of using the word by to connect the goal with the possible technique. After flipping through the techniques, I decided upon “address the reader directly.”
- Next I connected the goal and technique: I’m going to introduce my reader to a new topic by addressing my reader directly.”
- We went back to my text I circled three places where I already talked directly to the reader. However, the kids helped me realize I only did this in my final paragraph. Therefore, I would need to revise the rest of my writing by addressing the reader directly by using words like “you” and “your” and phrases like “Have you ever…”
- I let the kids play with the goals cards. But first I asked them what the goal of their hobby piece might be.
- Once each student selected a goal, they had time to search through the technique cards to find 1 – 3 techniques they might use to help them reach their goal.
- Each student wrote down the goal and techniques they decided upon.
- For the students whose techniques included defining key terms and using technical vocabulary, I encouraged them to do some brainstorming, on the same sheet of paper, about some of the words they might need to define for their reader.
- Finally, the students went back to their seats to do some drafting.
*I believe small group strategy lessons should be five to seven minutes long. Sometimes I break my own rules. In this case, I broke my own rule since I was trying something new.
After trying out the goals and techniques cards with Sarah’s students, I realized I wouldn’t want to just present them to kids for the first time in a small group situation. Rather, I’d want to study a mentor text with a group of students THEN break out the cards. Depending on the students I might say “The author did _______ to create ______ (this effect).” or I’d ask them what a writer’s goals might have been and then ask them what techniques they used to accomplish those goals. After kids played with the cards focusing on a mentor text for a bit, I would encourage them to try this out with their own writing. I might ask a student “What are you goals for this piece of writing?” and follow-up with, “What techniques might you use to do this in your piece?”
So, that’s my messy, first attempt at using the goals and techniques cards with kids. I’d love to know how you use them with your students! Please leave a comment to share how you use the cards in writing workshop.
UPDATED on 5/16/15 at 9:55 p.m.: In response to the comments below, I checked about the whereabouts of the goals and techniques cards since I don’t personally own the 6-8 Units of Study books. I was under the impression they were found in the Units of Study in Argument, information, and Narrative Writing, Grades 6-8 (Calkins et. al, Heinemann, 2014), but it turns out they didn’t make it into the final publication or onto the CD-ROM. The cards were passed out at 2014 summer institutes (which is how I got mine), at coaching sessions, and in schools. Unfortunately, I don’t know of a formal place to obtain them. However, if you are in search of these cards, I’d encourage you to contact someone from the TCRWP to find out if you can obtain a copy of them. (I don’t feel it’s ethical for me to disseminate something I didn’t create personally).
Literacy Consultant. Author. Former 4th and 5th Grade Classroom Teacher.