Your school is probably in full-blown Common Core State Standards mania. Or, if your state didn’t adopt the Common Core, the pressure is likely building to meet and exceed your state standards. Either way, teaching writing and helping students make great gains will be a big part of your school year. It’s a good thing, right?
Over the summer, I spent time falling in love with new picture books. I gathered everyday texts like brochures and posters. I am always reading, looking, and taking pictures to find examples that exemplify one or more of the traits and their key qualities.
Last month, I went to the Hoopla in Salem, Oregon to watch a friend’s son play in the city-wide tournament that filled the streets. As I was watching, I looked down and found mentor texts under my feet and embedded in the sidewalks: opinion, informative, and narrative. Seriously!
Which are which? Narrative, informative, or opinion? I know you know this, but the first is opinion, the second narrative, and the third is informational. Right under my footsteps!
It’s interesting isn’t it? Our world is filled with fascinating examples of good writing. We just have to reach out with our cameras and capture it or tuck a paper copy into our pockets to bring back and share. What could be a more delightful way to show students how each purpose for writing shows itself in the world: everyday texts.
As I’ve discovered new resources, I’ve been pushing my thinking about how the traits and modes fit together in light of the renewed emphasis on both in the Common Core. What I’m thinking is simple: the traits are “how” we write: ideas, organization, voice, word choice, sentence fluency, conventions and presentation. And the modes are the “what” we write: narrative, informative, or opinion/argument. (Or for those of us stubbornly clinging to traditional terms: narrative, expository, and persuasive.) To write in any mode, you have to know the traits, so students need good, solid instruction in both modes and traits to be the best writers they can be.
Look for examples of the traits: ideas, organization, voice, word choice, sentence fluency, conventions, and presentation, right along with the modes/purposes as you are reading and living this year. I bet you’ll be just as lucky as I am to find local examples of what good writing looks like that will take students a long way toward excellent writing to meet and exceed Standards.