Reveal Good Writing Before Students Write

Writing

Reveal Good Writing Before Students Write

Posted on March 23, 2009

Reveal "Good" Writing Before Students Write

No matter what grade-level you teach, no matter what the subject matter is, no matter what genre you are teaching--you want to show students an example of a "good one" before they write. Besides just modeling a teacher example, reveal an actual student example or anchor paper. Give the students a vision for what a "good one" looks and sounds like. Show students the expectations of the genre's structure, length, format, organization, idea development, word choice, etc. But be smart! Don't show them an example on the very topic you want them to write about, because they'll just copy it. Show them parallel anchor papers. For example:

  • If you want students to write a classroom description, show them a bedroom description.
  • If you want students to write a compare-contrast on spring vs. fall, then reveal a cat vs. dog compare-contrast.
  • If you want students to write a literature response, show them a well-written response for a previously read novel, not the same novel you want them to write one for.
  • If you want students to write a lab report for experiment #7, show them a strong lab report written from experiment #6.

So where do these parallel anchor papers come from? Don't make them up. Show them authentic examples from real students. You could begin saving examples from actual students right now. You'll have lots of examples for next year. But if you want grade-level samples immediately, there are numerous websites that provide free, downloadable student examples. With most websites you can identify the grade-level you want samples for, the specific genre, and even whether you want high, middle, or low examples. Check out some of my favorites!

The power of an anchor paper is that students have a vision of what a "good one" looks like before they write. They can't shoot at a target if they don't know the target. This process decreases the number of times students ask, Is this good? Am I done? Is this what you want? If they have never seen a "good one" they don't know when they've achieved it.