Elaboration Strategies for Information Writing
Many of our students who struggled with narrative writing have a different experience with information writing. It’s relatively easy for children to think of topics they know a lot about–sometimes much easier than it is to think of the stories within their own lives.
For the most part, structure is easier for students when they write information pieces. Focus and organization are clear because students know what they are writing about and they have a list of sections or chapters. Most of the students I see, whether they are second graders or even fourth graders, need to see how to elaborate their facts and how to make their writing sound more fluent. In order to deal with the tendency to present facts as a list, I have created a page in my toolkit, and I find myself using this page all the time, as well as letting teachers take pictures of it.
I’ve started with a sticky note that duplicates the type of writing I see a lot–the list-like sharing of facts. You can get plain pizza, pepperoni pizza, vegetable pizza, or onion pizza.
Then I talk to students about the importance of voice and extra information. The orange bullets on the charts are the different strategies writers can use so that they add extra information or create more of a flow in their writing. I have demonstration sticky notes to show students what it looks like for my example about pizza types. I also keep blank sticky notes–sometimes even in my chartbook–so that students can practice the skill themselves.
Of the five bullets, the most important one to me is the first one that involves breaking up the sentence:
The other skills don’t work well if students are unable to split their facts up, so if that skill needs practice, I have stayed with just this step with some students.
Once I’m sure they understand how to break apart their sentence, I can move on to the other four ideas on the page. Depending on the level and ability of the students I’m working with, I offer a different number of strategies. What’s nice about the sticky notes is I can move them over to the other side of the notebook if they are too much. I don’t need all of them to make my point about adding information and voice to a “listy” sentence.
Over and over, I have found this page effective in working with students across grade levels to get them to say a little more about a fact or an idea.