Immersion and Connections: Diving Into Informational Writing
Making Sense of Our World
Then, I began to talk with my co-authors, my teaching team and revisited the works of some of my favorite authors. I found all the conversations and thoughts were framed perfectly here in the wonderful words of Ann Marie Corgill in her book, Of Primary Importance.
Writing is the way for young children to bring their world to life and continue to make sense of it. School should be the place that lights the fire of curiosity in our students and gives them opportunities to make sense of this wonderful world we live in. I sincerely believe that giving six, seven and eight year-olds daily opportunities both inside and outside of school to write about their interests, their passions, their curiosities and their expertise is the beginning of creating citizens who will lead our world and be passionate about our growth, our progress, and our future.
This is when I realized all the writing we do shares this goal: making sense of the world and being passionate about learning. We are immersed in writing to make sense of the world and who we are in this big world. We are writing about things we know a lot about; ourselves, our families, our pets, our favorite things, favorite foods, and the list goes on and on. We ARE writing to making sense of who we are while imparting information about ourselves to our community. This sounds a lot like information writing at its most basic level.
This new perspective laid the perfect foundation to help me transition my thoughts to information writing. Anna Gratz Cockerille mentioned in her previous post, “…students delight in information writing once they know it need not be formulaic or bland.” The enthusiasm for informational texts in first grade is always high. Young writers and readers are free of worry and full of curiosity by nature; information texts do not hinder this love of learning.
As in any unit of study my thoughts first move to: What do the writers know about writing that will support them in the writing we will be doing? What do they need to know to be successful in this new writing?
The writers in our room know:
- Writing should be interesting to the reader.
- Writing should be easy to read.
- Writers write to share information with others.
The writers in our room need to know:
- How information writing is organized to support readers.
- How to record their thinking from reading an information book.
- How to share new information with others in a way that is clearly understood.
Leading with where we will end and where the students are, I am ready to begin teaching.
Immersion and Connections
It seems immersion and activating background knowledge go hand in hand. Making connections began when we shared our mini me’s. As students shared their mini me’s, common interests were noted. As we worked in reading, writing, math workshops and other parts of our days even more interest were discovered and noted.
With this knowledge of the students’ interests and wonderings I visited the children’s section of the public library. We have an AMAZING children’s section where all the information books for children are in their own section, separate from adult information books. This organization allows me to browse the plethora of books on various topics easily. I look for books organized in narrative style as well as books using print features to guide and support readers. I take a basket on wheels and fill it to the brim with topics from hopscotch to army helicopters! While most of the books are chosen based on interest, others are chosen to spur new curiosities. I want the students to know they can learn and share about anything!
I place these new books all around our classroom, adding some to baskets that are already in our room (when topics match student labeled tubs) and others are displayed to attract attention.
I don’t limit our information reading to books. Today’s students need to see possibilities beyond printed text. Students are no longer limited by what I can bring into the classroom. So I browse websites to share with kids. I link the sites via our classroom hub which students can access freely in and outside of school. (see links below)
We are now steeping among possibilities, new choices, and new curiosities. We are seeing just what it is we will soon write. I am not in a hurry to redirect students to, into or away from this slow and gentle steeping, I simply wait. I wait for the students to emerge sharing new learning, asking for more books, sites, topics and beginning to impart new learning.
With the lead of the learners, I begin to share information sites and text in our focus lessons. I begin by asking, “How Do We Understand Information Text?” My students will have already uncovered strategies for understanding this new genre. Many will have discovered tactics to gain new information from their reading through their explorations in the workshops. It’s my place to begin naming these strategies and guiding the class to a cognizance of how these strategies and features support us in our understanding. Often we create a chart of the features, defining the feature, how it supports understanding along with examples from text.
Once we have steeped and we have become aware of how authors of information texts make their information interesting and easy to read, we are ready to dive into information writing. I take these steps purposefully and slowly. I want students to own the learning, to guide me to what it is they need to move to a deeper and more attainable learning. I want this for them because I believe students who are metacognitive in their learning are students who will be lifelong learners. They will have a skill set that will allow them to move forward and take charge of learning in and outside of school.
Information Writing Mentors