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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.

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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:

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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.

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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.

Melanie Meehan View All

I am the Writing and Social Studies Coordinator in Simsbury, CT, and I love what I do. I get to write and inspire others to write! Additionally, I am the mom to four fabulous daughters and the wife of a great husband.

5 thoughts on “Elaboration Strategies for Information Writing Leave a comment

  1. Love this post Melanie. I love getting to get a glimpse into your notebook and your explanations of how you use it. You are inspiring me!

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  2. Melanie, I am a huge fan of TWT blog, and I have to say, this may be one of my favorite posts! I, too, notice that in information writing (really, any kind of writing now that I think about it) elaboration is a big challenge for my students. This page from your conferring toolkit is spot-on. I’ve been wanting to create a toolkit for a long while now. This might just be the kick in the behind for me to do it. Thanks so much for this post and for sharing the page from your toolkit.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Your charts are so helpful, Melanie. I agree that young writers first need to know how to break up their sentences before the other strategies work. Having a specific example on hand is so helpful when in the midst of a conference. Thank you for sharing this thinking!

    Liked by 1 person

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