Elementary Spotlight: Writing

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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.

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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.

Writing Navigator is available directly from the Curriculum Pathways site,  at no cost as both an iOS app and a Chromebook app, and Writing Reviser is also offered as a free Google Doc add-on.

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.

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Next, I revised the sentences to add stronger verbs. When I entered this paragraph, the new verbs were highlighted.

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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.

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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:

Needless Phrases
Misused Expressions
Clear Modifiers
Concrete Language
Building Sentences

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About Author

Terry Hardison

Terry Hardison oversees the development of English language arts resources for Curriculum Pathways. Prior to joining SAS, Terry worked for 21 years as a teacher and as a district-level English language arts supervisor.

2 Comments

  1. Emily Lamphear on

    This program here is going to make my life easier to help teach my students to write. I have a self contained Special Education classroom that will benefit greatly from breaking down the assignments and seeing every part for what it is. The ability for them to see all different word choices to replace words that are used more than once will help build their vocabulary that is lacking. I can not wait to download this program and use it for my students to help them with writing pieces that we do. When you have the program up and running goes it also help with punctuation and grammar?

  2. Ralph Moore

    Thanks! All of the features described in this post are currently available in Curriculum Pathways. Additionally, there is Punctuation Rules!, a very engaging tool to teach and reinforce punctuation, along with an entire series on grammar - Quick Tutorials: Grammar with Muggs.

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