Step inside this fifth grade classroom as they learn to elaborate.
These fifth graders were working on a “Research-Based Position Paper” for their unit of study on opinion writing. Basically, a Research-Based Position Paper means they read about two sides of an issue and then write a paper expressing and supporting their personal opinion. Some of the issues they studied were: Are professional athletes overpaid? Should cursive writing be taught in schools? Or, are video games good for you?
First, the students took notes using a boxes and bullets organizer. Here you can see the teacher’s note-taking sheet for her position that the right video games can be good for you.
Once we were ready to begin writing, I said to the classroom teacher, “Next we will probably want to show them how to go from the boxes and bullets outline to a draft.”
“Great,” she replied. “How do we do that exactly?”
“Well, let’s do some writing and see what we come up with!” I replied. So, we decided to use modeled writing as our minilesson the next day. Our learning target for the lesson became:
I can elaborate my bullet points by writing more.
We gave it a-go on chart paper as the students watched. Our first paragraph was about how video games have positive health effects:
Our first bullet point is underlined in red marker: Video games can cure amblyopia, or lazy eye. This came directly from our note-taking sheet.
“Hmmmm,” I thought aloud. “How can I elaborate by writing more about that?”
“I once taught a little girl who had lazy eye,” the classroom teacher chimed in. “She didn’t play video games, but she had to wear an eye patch!”
I wrote: I once knew a little girl in preschool with amblyopia who had to wear an eye patch for an hour a day, everyday after nap time. Perhaps video games may have cured her amblyopia faster.
“That’s great,” I said. “Telling a personal story is one way to elaborate.”
Then we moved on to our next bullet point, underlined in red on the chart paper: Another benefit of video games is they can affect your brain by teaching you typing, physics, music appreciation and more.
“How can we elaborate by writing more here?” I wondered aloud.
“Oooh, ooh, I know!” a student exclaimed. “I play Grand Turismo 6 at home, and it taught me how to drive!”
After a few more examples were shared, I wrote: Games like Grand Turismo 6 teach you the physics of driving, while games like Rock Band or Guitar Hero teach children classic songs.
“Yes,” I interjected, “Giving examples is another way to elaborate.”
This was our first lesson on elaboration, and we hope their writing will become more sophisticated over time. Through the use of personal stories, examples, comparisons, quotations and other types of details, the fifth graders learned how to elaborate by writing more.
Literacy Coach, Reader, Writer