Reading-writing connection and essays

My 5th grade class and I have set out on a new adventure:  we’re writing essays without a net.  No 5-paragraph essays for us!  We’re trying to write essays just like a writer would,colour-your-essays and how many 5-paragraph essays have YOU seen in magazines?

So we paused in the middle of the process of finding possible ideas and pushing our thinking to drill deeper and deeper into possible topics.

Today I handed an essay to each writing pair.  (Most of them were old Rick Reilly essays from Sports Illustrated.  I just love his writing.)  Students were instructed to read like writers and see what techniques the essayist used.  This is the list they came up with:

  • The author used repetition to keep the big idea in our minds.
  • The author wrote about two topics–back-and-forth–and then connected them.
  • The author gave us background knowledge.
  • The author used mini-stories.
  • The author has a clear, focused message.
  • The author used rhyming and alliteration.
  • The author made his message like a puzzle–you had to fit the pieces together to understand it.
  • The author included herself in the essay.
  • The author used a listing technique to organize the essay.
  • The author wrote the essay and directly asked the person questions in the writing.
  • The author varies the size of his paragraphs.
  • The author used a surprising lead.
  • The author used strong word choice.
  • The author used figures of speech.
  • The author’s voice showed generosity.

Each of these observations were accompanied by text evidence!  Now we did have one student who was commenting on the content of the article.  “The author wrote about traveling.”  I was thrilled that she did, because it gave me a marvelous chance to explain that she was reading like a reader (which is great), but that when we read like writers we need to watch for things that writers do, not what they write about.

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