Forty Best-practices Instructional Activities

Writer's Strategies
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40 Best-practices
Instructional Activities

Background: Writers have a repertoire of strategies in their “toolbox” to help them communicate ideas effectively. Some of the writer’s strategies include alliteration (a string of words with the same initial sound), similes, metaphors/analogies, sensory details (vividly describe sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch to engage the reader’s senses), onomatopoeia (writing words that represent the sounds of the things they describe), personification (assigning human characteristics to a nonhuman object), and the use of powerful nouns and verbs (instead of flower, the author writes tulips; instead of walked, the author writes scampered, or sauntered). Students who analyze writing strategies become adept at identifying author’s style. This background knowledge (understanding author’s styles) aids comprehension. It also demonstrates how students can apply strategies in their own writing.

Procedures: After reading a selection, students revisit the text to collect samples of writing strategies. In small groups students sort and analyze the samples. As a group they discuss each other’s opinions about the effectiveness of each sample. Questions that help students explore writing strategies: “What strategies did the author use?” “Why do you think the author chose the strategy to communicate ideas about this topic?” “How would the use of this strategy help readers understand the information?”

Examples: See the Lessons and Activities to find reading selections that demonstrate each of the strategies described above.

1. Begin a unit of study by constructing an Attribute Chart for Writer’s Strategies. At the top of the chart, write strategies students will collect during the study. Down the left-hand side of the chart, students write the titles of reading selections. When students locate a sample of a writer’s strategy in an article, they add it to the Attribute Chart. At the end of the unit, ask students to meet in small groups to analyze the data collected on the Attribute chart.
2. Read different books on the same topic. Show how various authors use unique approaches to the same topic.
3. Compare fiction, non-fiction and poetry on the same topic. Discuss how each genre contributes to children's understandings.
4. Read examples of non-fiction writing using a narrative style. Compare to a book on the same topic written in more typical expository style.
5. Show various formats used to convey information – alphabetical order, scrapbook style, first person, pop-up, flaps and transparent pages, etc.
6. Compare the use of drawings vs. photographs by discussing the effect of each kind of illustration. (Gail Gibbons and Seymour Simon books work well for this activity.)

Reading Strategies: Activate Prior Knowledge, Analyze Ideas from Text, Build Vocabulary, Identify Main Ideas and Details, Summarize Information, Synthesize Ideas, Make Connections, Identify Author’s Viewpoint and Purpose