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Expository Leads + Giveaways!

As a third-grade teacher this year I have been able to stretch my wings as a teacher in a few ways I wasn’t able to as a kindergarten teacher. There were so many wonderful moments each year in kindergarten writing workshop and I found this year the same is true of third-grade writers. Today is my last day of school and we wrapped it up with research projects. It was fun to introduce students to the exploratory notebook and help guide students as they chose topics, developed sections of content, and then found unique ways to offer voice and story to their research.

It was my first time doing research with this age group. In kindergarten and first-grade we dabbled in research but this year I knew it would be different. Students got very excited to enter into this unit and it was a great way to have a surge of momentum before we ended the year.

Some of my favorite lessons from the unit were ones that I put together using many resources. Many students, during the non-fiction unit earlier in the year, wrote in a very safe way. They chose leads that felt comfortable and language that sounded very “report” like. I was determined to change this during the research unit. Using Making Nonfiction from Scratch (Fletcher), Strategic Writing Conferences, *Drafts (Anderson), and Reviser’s Toolbox (Lane) I crafted together lessons that would stretch writers to think outside the box and try something new.

We started by looking at examples of leads, both weak and strong. Students sifted through their own leads looking at the strong and weak parts they already had in place and worked to make them well crafted. Revisor’s Toolbox offered great suggestions and I found a Prezi that displayed them nicely for students. Be sure to check out the link by clicking here or on the image below.

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Using Fletcher’s book, we looked at how a writer’s voice can really shine through and draw in the reader. Students played around with their lead, some wrote multiple leads until they found their favorite. One student even wrote a poem, unprompted! She looked at me and said, “Can I do that?” Um, yes my dear, you just did and it’s marvelous!

Students began to realize, through reading the work of their peers, that research was much more interesting when there was a story tied to the facts or mystery within the questions raised. They wanted to know more and student interest grew as they explored and broke free of the standard they had become comfortable with and really began showing their writer’s craft within a piece.

Here are some examples of students stepping out of their comfort zone and bringing a story, poetry, facts, and interest to their research. Click on the images to enlarge.

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A vast majority of my students still chose animals or insects for their topic. A few chose a person or place to research. I hope next year I get the opportunity to work with third-graders again and might have the chance to push students to look beyond what might seem like a comfortable topic choice. I’d like to start the exploratory notebook much earlier in the year as a place to collect ideas, questions, and information throughout the year in preparation for the research unit. I think giving students the opportunity to really think and explore many topics over time will give them a better base to choose from when they begin a project later in the year. For their notebooks this year, I simply stapled some lined paper inside a construction paper cover. Next year I hope to use their reading response journals as a place to house their exploratory notebook as well. My literacy coach gave me a great suggestion, to flip the book over, one cover being the exploratory notebook, the other the reading response journal. Why not in the writer’s notebook? I find that students really need the whole notebook for collecting stories and ideas throughout the year. However, their reading response journals were only half full as sometimes we respond on sticky notes or chart paper, I just didn’t need the entire notebook for this purpose. I think this idea may work and I’m hopeful I can try it with a new group of students.

This summer, in July, I will be presenting on Day One of nErDcampmi in Parma, Michigan on how to encourage students to bring their voice and story into nonfiction writing. I’m looking forward to sharing more about my experience this year with other educators.

When I began stumbling onto resources that included Barry Lane’s work I reached out to him, asking if I could use the work in this piece. In response, he graciously offered to giveaway a copy of Reviser’s Toolbox and Heinemann also offered to give one winner a copy of the newly revised second edition, After the End! I hope you have all had a great end to your school year and two lucky people will get some great summer reading! Below is more information about the giveaways.

GIVEAWAY INFORMATION:

  • This giveaway is for a copy of Reviser’s Toolbox by Barry Lane.  Many thanks to Barry Lane, at Discover Writing Press for donating a copy for one reader.
  • The second giveaway is for a copy of the second edition of After the End by Barry Lane. Many thanks to Heinemann for donating a copy to one reader.
  • For a chance to win a copy of either Reviser’s Toolbox or After the End, please leave a comment about this post by Friday, June 17th at 11:59 p.m. EST. I’ll use a random number generator to pick the winners, whose names I will announce at the bottom of this post, by Sunday, June 19th.
    • Please be sure to leave a valid e-mail address when you post your comment, so I can contact you to obtain your mailing address if you win.  From there, my contacts will ship your book out to you.  (NOTE: Your e-mail address will not be published online if you leave it in the e-mail field only.)
  • If you are the winner of the book, I will email you with the subject line of TWO WRITING TEACHERS – BARRY LANE. Please respond to my e-mail with your mailing address within five days of receipt. Unfortunately, a new winner will be chosen if a response isn’t received within five days of the giveaway announcement.

The winner of Reviser’s Toolbox was Melanie Weinshall and the winner of After the End was Barbara Keene. 

Betsy Hubbard View All

Daughter, sister, wife, mother, teacher, and writer.

61 thoughts on “Expository Leads + Giveaways! Leave a comment

  1. Wow! What an awesome blog! I am a first year teacher if a combination classroom grades 1 and 2. I look forward to implementing your ideas in my writing workshop and reading center! Thanks! Sheri

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  2. One of my summer ‘to-do’s’ is to refine writing instruction for intervention students. This book sounds like a great tool in helping with that task:)

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  3. I love the examples on the prezi! I need to get my hands on the new editions or my eyes on the Ralph Fletcher book that has been on my nightstand! Kids love non fiction reading and writing but it is hard to teach them crafting without a variety of great examples! Thanks for sharing!!

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  4. It’s so important for students (and teachers), to see the importance of using voice and other craft moves across all they types of writing they do.

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  5. I teach ESL students, and many of their papers start the same: Today I will talk about ___. It’s sometimes frustrating trying to come up with new ways to deal with this. Some students immediately see the problem with this, while others fight change. Having more resources is great. Will add this book to my to-read list! Thanks!

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  6. I love how you drew on several resources (i.e., Anderson, Fletcher, and Lane) this year. Our teaching is always so much richer when we consult multiple resources and use the best from each of them.

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  7. I love snapshots and I love Barry Lane. There were some great ideas on the Prezi. I will use it too with my 8th graders. Thanks for a good post and the giveaway!

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  8. I am a third grade teacher and saved this for next years planning. This goes right with my topics we teach. Strong leads are important! Would love to win a copy of some great texts!!

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  9. Thank you for sharing your insights and for the resources you used…I’d like to have copies of the books, it would be much appreciated.

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  10. I loved this post. I am working with a 2nd grade class, and one of the most difficult writing units we worked on was non-fiction writing. I will use the expository notebook next year and hope to see some improvements in the students writing.

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  11. Currently engaged in a research/nonfiction writing unit with my 5th graders. Some have chosen some fascinating topics! Love your Exploratory notebook idea! Thank you for the chance to win!

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  12. makes me get excited all over again each time I read a posting like this. Thank you.
    I am still excited teaching after 35 years.

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  13. Thanks for the ways you have unpacked the Barry Lane book and walked us through your efforts to apply it to your work with Exploratory Notebooks. I’m eager to start this earlier in the year like you suggested, and I really love the idea of flipping over Reading Notebooks to provide a side for the EN writing. Many thanks!

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  14. Love the idea of turning over the notebook;) it keeps everything in one spot AND maybe some of their thoughts could be kept in both sections;)

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  15. Student voice in expository writing will be on my mind through the summer as I think about my writing and my student wrting and our notebook. Thank you.

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  16. Love, love, love everything about this! It’s so powerful to see the possibilities and potential of a true Writer’s Workshop in 3rd grade. Thank you for sharing — and for the hook-up re: the book giveaways!

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  17. Love the prezi, hoping to be able to use it with my high school students and maybe we can get away from the I am going to tell you about that I threaten them about all of the time.

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  18. Betsy,
    I would be commenting on your post even if there wasn’t a giveaway! This is such a great piece! It really captured what happens in 3rd grade writing workshops. I can’t tell you how many of my students started their informational books with, “Hi, my name is (blank), and I”m going to tell you about…..”, even though not one single published nonfiction book we read started that way! In talking about it with one of my students this year, we had the epiphany that it might have something to do with the fact that we called in an INTRODUCTION (as opposed to a LEAD); we thought it might lead kids to think they were INTRODUCING THEMSELVES and not the TOPIC.
    I love the idea of using these other resources, besides the Units of Study, and I especially love the Prezi. Can’t wait to use it next year!
    You also hit on another important aspect of student informational writing: voice. I think if we can get kids to revise, or even first-draft, their introductions in the way shown here, that kind of voice will carry through the rest of the piece. At the least, it will be something we can refer students back to.
    Looking forward to checking out these new resources, and then using these ideas next year.
    Thanks so much, Betsy!

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  19. I really needed this post! I teach 6-12 students in an intervention classroom. I see the Prezi as a great example of what to do to start a paper and leave out the “I am going to tell you about…” I thought I had that worked out before I went on maternity leave in February but it came creeping back in my students’ papers when I returned in April!

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  20. With the focus on expository/informational writing, these skills are so very important. Teaching students to draw in readers is crucial. I would love any resources that will help with this task.

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  21. I attended a Six Traits of Writing training about 15 years ago and Barry Lane was one of the presenters. I have used the first edition of After the End since then and would love to have a copy of one of his books!

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  22. Thanks for the chance to win. I really appreciate you sharing your own kids’ leads….one, because I can use them as mentors for my own students. And, two because it grounds the work in the work of real children. Can’t wait to try exploratory notebooks. Hope to be able to follow along in your journey next year with more posts!

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  23. First of all, I love this blog and only wish I found it sooner! It’s full of great suggestions with examples from your own teaching experience. Fingers crossed for the chance to win two amazing resources! In the past five years of my teaching career, I worked mostly with pre-kindergarteners, and this was my first year as a third grade teacher. Writing workshop easily became my favorite part of the day! As a guide, I used the curriculum “Writing Fundamentals” which provides various mentor texts to immerse your students in before the drafting phase of writing. My priority at the end of our school year was reflecting with my students as well as on my own upon what we were proud of, what we learned, and what we would do differently next year. More on that to come soon. 🙂

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  24. This is a fascinating post for me to read because almost everything I teach in speech and in my dual credit Comminication 1101 class is research based. In both classes I often have kids who default to google or to encyclopedias rather than academic resources on databases. And in speech I often have a cut as paste issue to address. My point is that somewhere along the way many students pick up some bad habits they bring into high school.

    I’d love to read a follow-up about how you address the problems I see in my classes. That is, how do students “research” in third grade?

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  25. I love the posts in Two Writing Teachers. This one is especially helpful because I want to strengthen student’s expository writing skills in the coming school year. I feel like we spend more time and focus on narrative, yet my fourth graders are so inquisitive that I know they’d welcome a chance to research and explore their curiosities. While I have many professional books, the two being offered have been on my “to purchase” list, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed! Thanks for such a great article and website.

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  26. The student who asked you, “Can I do that?” reminds me why I teach. Helping kids see the creative possibilities in their learning process is the most exciting part of teaching for me. Thanks for sharing!

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  27. My students did a similar project this year and we called them a “passion project.” This was before I heard about the exploratory notebook, so next year we will add this to our passion projects. I’d also love to get a copy of Barry Lane’s work. I want to tuck this post away for next year. I’m in summer mode.

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  28. I would love the opportunity to learn from Barry Lane again; years ago I attended one of his workshops and still use the writing lessons from that day.

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  29. I would appreciate the opportunity to learn from either of the authors. Thank you for sharing your experiences on teaching leads in expository writing!

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  30. I worked with kindergarteners for several years in writing workshop and this was my first year as a third grade writing teacher. It became my favorite part of the day! I have been writing reflections on what worked and what I want to remember for next year. Using effective leads is definitely something I will spend more time on. I discovered third graders love the question format and resist trying anything different. I also write nonfiction books for a small publishing company and we were specifically encouraged not to ask the reader a question as a lead because the reader might say, “no” to the question and stop reading! Therefore in my own writing, I do spend a lot of time on writing and rewriting leads. Of course my students should too.

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  31. Love the idea of exploratory notebooks. I was thinking about having my students keep wondering notebooks next year so they could write down all the different wonderings they have for our inquiry projects.

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  32. Love this post and it’s perfectly timed for me as I’m moving from first to fourth grade next year. Either of the Barry Lane books would be a wonderful resource as I prepare for this new adventure! Thanks for sharing your students’ writing and your year-end celebrations!

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