My last two posts have been related with one focusing on narrative writing and the other focusing on opinion writing. While I hope that both posts bring play and purpose into the writing lives of children, I also know that it’s high-stakes testing season across the United States, and yes, both posts contain lightly veiled opportunities for some test prep. Given that the assessments address three genres of writing— narrative, opinion, and information— It seems only fair to give a little attention to information writing, especially as those assessments loom.
So…here are three ideas for getting kids some information practice when the ideas have dried up or when you need some quick practice.
- Lean into the power of videos (I know you will all love this one!)
As I wrote in my narrative-oriented post, videos are one of my favorite ways to inspire information writers.
Some of my favorites:
Here is a sample of text I wrote describing the sea otter that you are welcome to use with students or to inspire yourself:
Sea otters have a really clever way of getting to the clam because the meat is inside of the shell. They float on their backs with a rock balanced on their stomachs. By swimming like this, they can bang the clam on the rock. This breaks the shell so that they can eat the meat of the clam right out. Once they do that they flip over, drop the rock, and enjoy their meal!
This one is for the gore-loving students in your room, as… spoiler alert: there’s some blood.
Wannabe-chefs may like this video or the many others that describe how to make something in the kitchen. There’s the added scaffold of written text than accompanies the video
Youtube is a fabulous resource where you can find short informational clips about almost any topic, so if you know of a topic that could interest a stalled students, I bet you can find a short video, offer it up, and provide almost instant information that can serve up a topic.
Speaking of knowing students in your classroom…
2. Know your students!
It’s late in the year as I write this post, so chances are you know the students in your classroom. What do they do when they’re not in school? Where do they go? What do they like? What do they talk about? Who are the important people? Any of the answers to these questions can lead to fodder for information writing.
A quick informational writing hit could be describing the candy aisle of Walmarts (a personal favorite of mine!), a description of the local sandwich shop, or a how-to page for a lego-man. As much as I hate to admit it, there’s even fodder for information writing within the characters and rules of video games or television shows. One of the most tough-to-find-a-topic writer admitted to inspiration from the array of fast cars hitting the market. With a couple of pictures of Maseratis and Teslas put in front of him, he had some concrete details to include in his writing.
3. Open up and extend the possibilities and purposes for information writing
I’ve mentioned Shelley Harwayne’s book, Above and Beyond the Writing Workshop, a few times in TWT blog posts, and I’ve shared it with several teachers in my district. I love the different formats she reminds me of how I consume nonfiction and therefore how students could create nonfiction.
An informational calendar? Could be motivating!
A 1-2-3 book? High potential for creative thought!
A would-you-rather based post? Sounds like it could be opinion writing, but explaining opinions and convincing others of them involves a fair amount of research and relaying of information.
A Day in the Life? Imagine the possibilities if this is written as an information book about someone they love and then they gift it to that person!
While none of these ideas require that students go through the entire process of writing an introduction-to-conclusion information piece, they do have the potential to inspire students to do some on-the-spot information writing, and sometimes these short spurts provide the practice or jump-starts that students need.