Thanks to ASCD for allowing me to share my guest blog post with you. Check it out here for some thoughts about the different teacher talk you might hear in a co-taught classroom.
Glancing through student journals at their daily writing entries, you will probably see that most entries are fiction or personal narrative. Perhaps students are most comfortable with these styles, or don’t have enough time to do extensive research on a topic. Yet, we want students to gain more experience with informative writing than the occasional unit or assignment provides. To encourage students to write informational text more often, try the Four Facts Strategy.
Explain to students that informational text always includes accurate information or facts. When choosing a topic, it is essential that the student picks a topic that they know at least four facts about. Just because a topic sounds interesting (“robotics!”) doesn’t mean they will know enough facts to do a quick write.
Provide students with four colored sticky dots. Direct them to reflect silently, listing and counting the facts they know about their chosen topic. Once they are sure they know the topic well, direct them to capture each fact by writing a word or phrase on a sticky dot.
Next, ask students to partner with a peer. Student A shares his four facts, while Student B listens and evaluates – “Is it a fact or opinion?” Some students like to stick the dots on their fingertips and hold them up to show their partner. The dots serve as a tactile, concrete way to emphasize the importance of facts for informative writing.
If Student B believes that one idea is not really a fact, encourage both students to expand on their thinking, justifying their opinions, and then ask partners to swap roles.
When students begin writing, their dots serve as reminders and can be placed in the journal to show where they have been incorporated.
After this initial lesson, keep dots readily accessible in the classroom so that students may be motivated to write informative text more often.
Anne M. Beninghof
Anne's mission is to improve instruction through collaboration and the sharing of creative, practical ideas for educators.