Last year my goal for the children was to learn to write a great paragraph. Thing was I didn’t want to keep repeating myself each day reminding them of everything I expected to see in this great paragraph. We had used IEW briefly, and whilst I did love it, I’m naff at following any curriculum. I have a tendency to tweak, in fact it’s almost a compulsion! There were a few things I really appreciated about IEW and one of those things was the stylistic techniques. I turned those techniques into a check list and voila! I had me a plan! I made an ‘informationary‘ – a folder for the children to use full of information: a list of things I wanted included in a paragraph; a list of things I didn’t want to see - words such as said or did – with lists of stronger words to use instead and punctuation I wanted checked before they handed in a piece of work to me. It was so simple and made a huge difference to their writing. They knew what I expected and could systematically include everything on the list. At first there was a slight awkwardness to their writing as they tried to ‘fit’ everything in, but soon it became more comfortable and is now second nature.
This year I wanted to teach them how to write a five paragraph essay. We have done a few before but they required a lot of involvement from me, pointing them in the right direction. I do feel that at least two of them are ready to be a little more independent. Obviously, at 10 and 11, I don’t expect them to be able to write a long essay without any help at all but I would like to begin to nudge them in that direction.
So I set about making another informationary. This time it would contain all the information I would be requiring from the children when they wrote a five paragraph essay.
I turned two card folders inside out, re-attached them and stuck them together in such a way that the back and front had a pocket to store paper in:
On top of the front pocket I stuck a laminated version of the essay schedule, making clear my expectations of the children throughout each week. The pocket was there to store their spider diagrams, planning and rough notes, along with their neat copies:
On the inside of the folder I included the indepth information about a five paragraph essay, the stylistic techniques, a list of banned words and copious alternative words the children could choose from instead:
In the pocket at the back I put in a list of grammar rules, so if the children couldn’t remember something or were unsure, they were there to look up. I am hoping over time they will infiltrate their brains and they’ll learn them off by heart. I can dream, can’t I?
And last but not least I wrote a check list of the very BASICS I expect from an essay. (I will be requiring them to tick these off for each piece of work they hand in). This list will grow as they become more independent, but for now includes capitalisation at the beginning of sentences, punctuation at the end of a sentence and ensuring each sentence is a full sentence - no fragments allowed!
I laminated everything. Our last informationary became so tattered and dog-eared, I thought I’d try to do something to preserve this one for a bit longer. Also I want the children to be able to write on this one, cross things out as they include them and tick off the check list at the end – lamination allows them to do just that!
Their first essay will be about William the Conqueror and his reasons for wanting to become king of England, based on an activity we did last week (which I’ll be sharing tomorrow).