Let me start by stating the obvious: teaching students to write well is hard. Yet teachers who have had success at the elementary level know that young writers can thrive when certain conditions and practices exist in the classroom. For instance, they know students need to be given time to practice writing frequently, even daily. They also know that improvement comes when students understand the writing process.
Faced with a writing task that seems overwhelming, students can break down the writing process into manageable steps or chunks. And if these steps—planning, drafting, revising, and publishing—also include instructional activities, then students will have the support they need to improve sentence construction, paragraph development, and other elements of writing fluency.
Curriculum Pathways offers resources that give young writers exactly this kind of support. Writing Navigator is a suite of four tools, one for each step in the writing process. Each tool offers numerous instructional features that help students create an effective plan, draft well-constructed sentences and paragraphs, revise their work in thoughtful ways, and prepare their written work for sharing with an audience.
Here’s one example of the support we provide. Elementary students who have practiced identifying verbs can begin to think about how to select strong verbs to give their sentences more power. Our Audio Tutorial Strong Verbs explains that forceful writing demands forceful verbs. They drive sentences the way an engine drives a car.
One second grade teacher who used Strong Verbs says the video provides a “delightful analogy of verbs compared to car engines.” She added that the “visual example of verbs goes a long way with small children.”
To give young students practice in selecting strong verbs, teachers can use Writing Reviser, one of the Writing Navigator tools. Here’s one way I've used that tool.
First, I wrote a short paragraph full of weak verbs. I entered the paragraph in Writing Reviser, opened Sentence Power from the menu, and clicked All verbs. Voilà, Writing Reviser highlights all the verbs in my own work (i.e., it personalizes learning), allowing me to focus on a single task. And if I can't reliably identify my own verbs, the tool is also helping me develop that skill.
Next, I revised the sentences to add stronger verbs. When I entered this paragraph, the new verbs were highlighted.
Along with the highlights, Writing Reviser lists the verbs used in the passages and identifies how often they are used. Here’s a comparison of the verbs appearing in the two passages.
Finally, I would point out that in the first list, I used some verbs more than once, wasting opportunities to include a variety of forceful verbs. Also, these weak verbs in the first list do not reveal much about my topic, eating a great pizza dinner. However, the stronger verbs in the second list give the reader a vivid picture of how excited I was to eat that tasty meal.
Check out these other resources that can help young writers improve their fluency: