Write-Talks: Students Discovering Real Writers, Real Audiences, Real Purposes
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Published authors are not the only "real" writers. Real writers are people who use writing in their daily lives. These real writers compose e-mails or memos, personal blogs or websites, song lyrics, and more. This lesson plan, which is adaptable for use in middle school as well, introduces students to a wide world of writing. Students begin by brainstorming a list of the types of writing people do on a daily basis. Then, students work together to classify those writing genres in various categories, such as formal and informal, public and private, and digital writing. Students then invite people into the classroom to talk about what, why, and how they write in real life. As a culminating activity, students reflect on how these varying purposes and processes can apply to their own lives.
Writing in the World handout: Have students use this handout to take notes as people give their Write-Talks.
From Theory to Practice
Parents, older siblings, and other influential people in students' lives can be invited into the classroom to share their unique ways of approaching the writing process as they write diverse texts that inhere in their everyday routines.
Different people successfully adopt individual approaches to the writing process; this process in turn also varies according to the type of text and the author's intended audience.
Common Core Standards
This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.
This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.
NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts
- 5. Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.
- 11. Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.
- 12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).
Materials and Technology
- LCD projector (optional)
- Uncle Jed's Barbershop by Margaree King Mitchell (Aladdin, 1993)
- Classroom computer with Internet access
- Index cards
- Poster board
Preparation for Session 1
There are two optional activities you can do with students prior to Session 1.
|1.||Conduct a shared reading of a book or article about a hero and ask students what qualities they admire in that person. A good book to use for this activity is Uncle Jed's Barbershop by Margaree King Mitchell. Encourage students to make text-to-self connections between the admired adult in the book and admirable people in their own lives.
|2.||Ask students to interview somebody in their life whom they admire. The interview should be centered on the types of writing that the person does to accomplish everyday purposes in her or his life.
Preparation for Session 2
|1.||Compile a list of the class's questions from Session 1, perhaps including some questions of your own, and copy them on the back of the "Write-Talk" Invitation Letter.
|2.||Make enough copies of the "Write-Talk" Invitation Letter for each student to receive at least one. You may want to have extra copies on hand in case some students want to invite more than one person to speak to the class.
Preparation for Sessions 3 and 4
|1.||Two weeks in advance of Session 4: Select people who will share a diverse range of texts from the letters that students have returned. If possible, find at least one person who has composed a digital text (such as a posting on a website). Depending on how many students have returned letters, you may need to also invite additional people. These could include former students, local politicians, community event organizers, youth organization leaders, volunteers in your school's Parent Teacher Organization, local musicians and athletes, or librarians. If you get a large number of positive responses, you may want to schedule more than one "Write-Talk" session.
|2.||One week in advance or Session 4: Call the people who have agreed to speak and confirm the time and date with them. If possible, arrange to use a computer with an Internet connection and an LCD projector in your classroom.
|3.||Make enough copies of the Writing in the World handout so that each student has an entry for each speaker.
Preparation for Session 5
|1.||Bring materials for students to make thank you cards and a poster comparing their different approaches to writing. Alternatively, familiarize yourself with the interactive Venn Diagram and prepare to teach students how to use it. If you choose this latter option, and you do not have classroom computers with Internet access, reserve your school's computer lab.
|2.||Make copies of the My Own Write-Way Venn Diagram Instructions and the accompanying My Own Write-Way Evaluation Rubric for each student in your class.
- Discover that writing is used in various real-life settings by people who want to accomplish a variety of important purposes by interviewing community members as they share their own writings
- Reflect on different ways they can apply the writing process for relevant texts they write in their own lives by recording how they can approach different types of personal and professional writing
- Synthesize what they have learned by comparing and contrasting different writing processes used to compose different types of texts
Session 1 (60 minutes)
|1.||Ask students to write for five minutes about a person they admire in their lives. Students should then share their responses in small heterogeneous groups of three or four. Afterward, a few students may share their responses with the whole class.
|2.||Give each student some index cards and a marker that is different in color from the other students in his or her group. Students should work with their groups to brainstorm the types of writing they think the admirable people they have written about might do or have done in the past. Any type of writing is acceptable including job applications, notes for classes, flyers, lyrics, blog pages, journal entries, invitations, to-do lists, calendar entries, business websites, blueprints, and diagrams of sports plays. You may have to help students get started by sharing a few examples. Every time a student suggests a type of writing, he or she should list it on an individual index card.
|3.||After students have brainstormed and written their ideas, ask them to do a variety of sorting activities with the index cards, including the following:
|4.||Ask each group to share their index card arrangements with the class, possibly by taping their categories on the board as a string of connected index cards.
|5.||Ask students what they learned about writing from this activity, making sure to emphasize both the wide variety of types of writing and the commonalities.
|6.||Explain that, in order to further learn about the writing process, students will have an opportunity to invite people from their communities to share pieces of writing and to answer questions about them. Have students generate a list of questions to ask people about their writing samples and about writing in general. Save the list of questions for future reference. Questions may include the following:
Session 2 (15 minutes)
|1.||Distribute the "Write-Talk" Invitation Letter and read it aloud. Explain that students are going to find people in their communities who write, and they will invite these people to class to give "Write Talks" as a way to learn about different writing processes that go behind different kinds of texts. Point out that you have put the questions students generated during Session 1 on the back; check in with students to see if there are any questions they would like to add.
|2.||Ask students to take the letters and give them to someone they admire and know uses writing. They can choose any person: scout leaders, relatives, coaches, their friends' parents. Give students a due date to return the letter that is approximately two weeks before the date you have chosen for "Write-Talk" presentations.
Note: Each student should invite at least one person, but they can invite more than one. If more people sign up to give "Write-Talks" than you can accommodate in one session, then you may want to invite them to come the following day or later in the year.
Session 3 (15 minutes)
Ideally, this session takes place the day before the "Write-Talk" session. Post the questions students generated at the end of Session 1 where students can see them; keep them available through Session 4 as well.
|1.||Prepare students for the "Write-Talk" session by reminding them of proper etiquette. Encourage them to be active participants and to ask questions, explaining that their questions need not be limited to the interview questions they already generated as a class.
|2.||Review the Writing in the World handout with students, model how to fill in a box, and ask them if they have any questions.
Session 4 (60 minutes)
|1.||As the visitors share, students should complete their Writing in the World handouts.
|2.||Students ask the visitors any questions they might have. The class-generated list of questions can be used to help spark discussion.
|3.||Thank each visitor for coming before he or she leaves and be sure to collect your requested copy of his or her writing.
|4.||At the end of the session hold a whole-class discussion, making sure that students consider the final question on their handout: What trends did you notice as people spoke? Additional questions for discussion include:
Session 5 (60 minutes)
|1.||Ask students to think of one real-life text that they currently write or that they can envision themselves writing as an adult. Have students get into pairs, making sure each person in the partnership has chosen a type of text that is different from the other person's.
|2.||Review the My Own Write-Way Venn Diagram Instructions handout and the My Own Write-Way Evaluation Rubric with students and answer any questions they might have.
|3.||Have students work with their partners to make a Venn diagram comparing the processes behind their two selected types of writing, based on the questions on the handout. Ask each student to use a different color marker so you can track their contributions. Alternatively, you might ask students to complete their Venn Diagram online. If they work this way, tell them to include their initials as the end of each of their contributions so you can tell their work apart.
|4.||When students are done, ask them to evaluate their work using the rubric and to make any necessary changes or additions before turning in their diagram and worksheet.
|5.||Have students create and sign thank you cards for the people who presented.
- Rather than inviting people to speak on one day, you can distribute them throughout the school year and schedule each talk according to the genre of writing that you plan to teach for a particular unit.
- Have students write two different texts for two different audiences, and to write a reflection on the writing processes involved in each.
- Use the writing samples you collect as part of continuing discussions about writing. For example, if you are teaching a unit about poetry, have students review a poem or song lyric one of the presenters brought in.
- You can also use the writing samples as part of your curricula to teach critical reading. For example, you may be encouraging your students to make critical inferences about how authors' purposes (such as to persuade) may influence the information included in their texts.
Student Assessment / Reflections
- Circulate as groups brainstorm during Session 1 and note the frequency and content of each student’s comments. Note students’ conceptions of real-life texts by tracking each student’s contributions to the list of index cards.
- Collect completed Writing in the World handouts. Use them to assess students’ understanding of the different writing processes necessary for different texts.
- Assess students’ Venn diagrams according to the My Own Write-Way Evaluation Rubric.