Doe this sound like something you have tried? I have! I know that when I ask my students questions, then they revisit a piece of writing, this piece of writing improves. Adding details to a piece of writing is a typical goal on all state tests. How do we help bridge the gap between adding details, asking questions and kids improving writing? So how do I improve their writing WHILE they write? How do I get my students to ASK THEMSELVES the questions or to INTERNALIZE the process?
First, I have to model how to ask questions of how to get the five senses involved. The teacher has to ask probing questions that stir memories. The main teaching point is transfer. The writer has to add details smoothly while writing. When a writer is actually including sense details while writing, we know that the writer has started to internalize the process.
A typical lesson -
Student wrote: Christmas was fun.
Questions generated by teacher or possibly the writer:
-How was it fun?
-What did they wear?
Think about Christmas. Again questions generated by teacher or possibly the writer:
-Could you hear the sleigh bells jingling.
-How did Christmas dinner taste?
-Was the turkey juicy or dry?
-Did your aunt’s special pudding make you gag?
-How did it taste?
-How did it smell?
-What sounds did you hear?
-What did you see?
-Was the present as big as a tree?
-Was the dinner disgusting or the best turkey you’ve ever eaten?
If your students are writing and you are asking the questions, then WHO is doing the work? When I think of this teaching example, I want my students to know about adding the five senses to their writing.
Instead a child who is thinking and asking the questions himself:
Now, the student is writing:
As I walked into grandma’s living room, my eyes bugged out at the present
(Child stops writing, pauses and thinks about the size of the present. Then the child keeps writing. When the writer is asked afterwards about this writing move, the writer reflects that he knew his writing partner would want to know how big the present is. Writer keeps writing…)
the size of a stove with my name on it. It didn’t even fit under the Christmas tree. The tree was filling the living room with evergreen smell. (Writer stopped writing after living room and paused. This writer asked himself what did I smell because maybe he thought my writing partner will ask me this question.)
The first lessons of asking yourself a question is in direct response to “what will my writing partner want to know?” Eventually students internalize the process and add details because it makes the writing better for the writing.
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