My students have great Ideas (see 6+1 Writing Traits) for writing and are creating captivating beginnings to their pieces (stories, recounts etc) however they often fall straight back to “telling” for the remainder of their piece. I’m am pleased to see that my students are becoming aware and noticing the problem but are now frustrated because they don’t have a strategy in place to help them improve.
Once again, Steve Peha to the rescue! He provides practical ways to help students overcome the challenges of writing. He suggests two simple strategies Idea-Details and Tell-Show in his The Writing Teacher’s Strategy Guide.
Please download and read Steve Peha's Tips and Example pages in this document which help guide teachers with how to approach these strategies and the subtle but important difference between the two.
Today instead of using his Draw-Label-Caption during Pre-Writing, I modeled using these two simple graphic organizers as a two step strategy.
Idea: An idea that you have connection to, experience with or has meaning to you.
Details: Responding to questions that the reader will have about the Idea.
Step 2: Tell-Show
Tell: Take one Detail that grabs you and write it into a sentence.
Show: Describe the Tell using your senses as if the reader is there in your shoes.
I explain that I am taking an Idea of something recent from my experience that conjures up my senses, that I remember well and can provide detail.
I remind my class that power of Writer’s Workshop is to help each other become better writers. So when we are noting Details down during Pre-Writing we can skip to Sharing to get our future readers/audience to ask us questions so we can write “answers” which form our Details. I demonstrate this by writing responses in the Details column as students ask me questions about my Idea. I compliment them on their questions which really prompted me to think and explain how this helped me much more than if I was doing it myself.
I ask them to watch and provide me with silence while I think and write. I want them to understand the value of focus, as one student put it, “It’s like you’re going back in time, teleporting to the experience your writing about.”
I then compare my descriptive and long Show to my short Tell and my very short Idea sentence. I can tell immediately in their wide eyes looking back at me that they see the difference and how this two step strategy can help them write better.
His Sharing partner just brought him over to tell me how he fared on the 6 Traits Feedback Assessment and gone into specific details of how and why.
This prompted me to ask the whole class “What have you learned?” as a graffiti poster on the IWB. I was so pleased to read their responses because my original objective of providing practical strategies and examples of how they could become better writers exceeded my expectations.
I had to drag them out to break because they didn't want to put down their pencils during Drafting!