Kelsie Syverson, EngEd 463, Chapter 10: Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum

*Some of these ideas were written about or had pictures in a previous post from Ch. 8.

Main Idea Trees

Main idea trees are used to write about a main idea and then branch off to think of supporting ideas and then the branch off of those supporting ideas with more supporting ideas for those ideas. Then the students can create sentences or paragraphs about their main idea using the supporting ideas.

Of course, the teacher will model what this looks like. For example, if the teacher has a tree about dogs and the supporting ideas of pets, appearance, and activities with additional supporting ideas for those things, the teacher may write this:

A dog can be a pet. Pets are animals that live in homes and are taken care of by people. People love their pets and play with them. Other pets may be cats or fish.

These ideas would all be on the tree that the students have created to organize their ideas before writing. Main idea trees can be used for a variety of topics.

Time Lines

Time lines are used to organize events in the order that they happened. This can be useful while reading a story where the time in which event occurs matters or it could be used when learning about the history of something. These timelines can then be used to write a paragraph that makes sense because it follows in order. This may look like this:

In 1992, Sarah was born and grew up in Virginia. Sarah’s family moved to Georgia in 1997 when Sarah turned 5. She loved living in Georgia and hoped to live there the rest of her life but unfortuately her dad got a new job and they had to move to Wisconsin in Spetember of 1998 when Sarah was starting school.

Time lines can be used to make a summary of historical events too such as wars or inventions.

Compare and Contrast Bubble

Compare and contrast bubbles are used for just that, comparing and contrasting different things. These things could include books, authors, countries, animals, plants, etc. These are great to organize your ideas when you are doing research on two or three different things because you can write the things that are different in the circles but then write the things that are similar in the overlapping part of the circles. This would then give the student a good 3-4 paragraphs to write depending on the number of things they are comparing.


Think-writes are short, quick bits of writing that help the students focus and clarify their thinking. Think-writes are writing that the students are doing just for them, so the spelling and grammar may not be perfect. These can be written on scrap pieces of paper to show that they are just quick writes to be written down and can be fixed later if needed.

One way to use these is at the beginning of a lesson when you are teaching something new. Students can quickly write down what they already know. The teacher usually gives the students about 2-5 minutes to write. The students don’t even have to use sentences but could just make a list of things they know. When time is up, the students can volunteer to share a few things that they have written.

Think-writes can be used to make predictions too, what a story is going to be about or what is going to happen during a science experiment. By using think-writes, you are giving all of the students a chance to think and come up with their own ideas.

Classroom Application

All of the above ideas can be used across different subject areas which is something that I love about them. I have never heard of think-writes before but this is something I would love to use in my classroom. I like that they can be used to introduce a topic, during the middle of a lesson, or to conclude a lesson or unit so show what the students have learned.

Kelsie Syverson, EngEd 463, Chapter 9: Writing

Writer’s Workshop

This is the process of students choosing their own topics and then writing, revising, editing, and publishing. It should begin with a mini-lesson during which the teacher models writing. Then, the students write. You then conference with them and coach them on how to revise, edit, and publish. Concludes with an Author’s Chair, in which students read their writing and get responses from the other “writers” in the room.

Limit the amount of time your students write for the first few weeks of school. Eventually, you want them writing for 15-20 minutes, but it is better to start with smaller amount of time, perhaps 6-7 minutes.

The goal is that you want the students to look forward to the writing time and you want them to see writing as a way of telling about themselves and the things that are important to them.


  • Begin with an 8-10 minute mini-lesson
  • Model for students what you do about spelling
    • Sound it out
    • Use the word wall or other resources around the room
  • Do not spell the words for the students
  • Circulate and encourage the writers

Editors Checklist

This is something that the teacher and students can come up with together during one of the mini-lessons. These should be things that students will look for during the editing process. An example of this is:

  • Do all the sentences make sense?
  • Do all the sentences have ending puntuation?
  • Do all the sentences start with a capital letter?
  • Are the words I need to check for spelling circled?
  • Do names and places start with a capital letter?
  • Do all my sentences stay on topic?

This check list can be introduced one item at a time and then worked on during the mini-lesson for that day.

Peer Editing

Once students have had a lot of experience editing the teacher’s piece each day, they can learn how to edit with a partner. The teacher will model this by choosing a student to edit their writing, the teacher will choose a different student every day until all students seem to understand the process.

Author’s Chair

Student’s can share anything they have written since their last day in the Author’s Chair. Of course, when a student publishes a piece, they read that. The focus is exclusively on the message that the author is trying to convey.


Students choose a piece to publish when they have written 3-4 good pieces. All students will be at different stages, so they will not all be publishing at the same time. Some will be working on writing first drafts, picking drafts to publish, editing with a friend, having a conference with the teacher, fixing a piece after a conference and will be copying, typing, and illustrating the final product.

  1. Pick one piece that you want to publish
  2. Choose a friend and peer edit your piece for the items on the checklist
  3. Sign up for a writing conference
  4. Work with the teacher in a conference to edit your piece and fix spelling
  5. Copy or type your piece, making all the corrections
  6. Illustrate your piece

The Writing Conference

Be sure that each child edits his or her piece with a friend before signing up for a writing conference with the teacher. The teacher’s goal in publishing is to have students experience the pride of being authors ad having others read and enjoy their writing.

Fix the spellings of words, add punctuation and capitalization, clarify sentences that do not make sense, delete sentences that are totally off the topic, and do whatever else is necessary to help the student produce a masterpiece of writing.

Giving Additional Support to Struggling Writers

Once you begin publishing, you need to include everyone in the process. The goal is for everyone to feel like a real writer because he or she has some published pieces.

Help them choose pieces they want to publish and them give them the option of reading or telling what they want to say. Help them construct their pieces. As they tell, write down their sentences or have them use text to talk. Read the sentences with them several times to make sure they know what they say. Cut the sentences apart and have the student illustrate each one and put them all together into a book. You do not give this support to all students, if you feel like you need to, then you should go back to a mini-lesson.

Adding Revising to Writer’s Workshop

Editing is fixing mistakes and making the writing easy for the reader to read. Revising is makeing the writing better, clearer, more interesting, more dramatic, more informative, more persuasive, more anything.

  • Adding Revising Strategy
    • Adding is the easiest revising strategy and should be taught first
    • Adding words or phrases can make the meanings of their pieces clearer and more vivid
  • Replacing Revising Strategy
    • Replacing is another revising strategy all writers use
    • Makes writing better by improving the quality of what is already there
    • Can replace words, phrases, sentences, or whole chunks of text
  • Reordering and Removing Revising Strategies
    • Revising by reordering should not be taught until students can revise by adding and replacing
    • When se finish writing something , we realize that something we included does not really add anything to our writing or distracts the reader from the point we are trying to make

Prompt-Based Lessons for Opinion Pieces

The teacher will create a prompt for the students to write about. This prompt will include something that will be unique to each student by making them give their opinion on something.

Revising Opinion Pieces

  1. Introduce the topic clearly and state your opinion about it
  2. Give good reasons supported by facts and details
  3. Use words like because, for example, specifically, therefore, and consequently to connect your opinion with your reasons
  4. Provide a concluding sentence or paragraph

Focused Writing Lessons for Informative/Explanatory Texts

  1. Introduce the topic
  2. Give facts and details about the topic
  3. Have an ending statement or section
  4. Define a few important words if your readers might not know them
  5. Group related information together
  6. Use words like also, another, and , more, but, in contrast, and especially to connect related ideals together

Focused Writing for Narratives

  1. Introduc the narrator, one or more character, or both
  2. Describe the setting and situation you narrator or main character is in
  3. Have a sequence of events that feels natural to your readers
  4. Have an ending that follows from what happened and what the characters experienced
  5. Use dialogue and description to tell what happened
  6. Use dialogue or description to show how characters feel about what happened
  7. Use concrete words and phrases and sensory details to convey what happens
  8. Use some transitional words and phrases to convey the sequence of events

Classroom Application

I like the Writer’s Workshop, the process of having students write, edit, and publish their work. This will help students to enjoy writing and learn how to make their writing better. I also like the idea of the Author’s Circle. This way students can share what they have written with their peers and receive feedback on what they have written. I would maybe start this with journal writing and having students read things that they have written in their journals.

Kelsie Syverson, EngEd 463, Chapter 8: Reading Informational Text

Informational Text

When we read informational text, we need to do close reading so that we learn not only the big ideas but the facts and details that support those big ideas. Informational text has three common text structures – descriptive, sequential, and comparative. Informational text has special feature – maps, photos, charts, graphs, headings, bold words, and others – which require special reading strategies.

When we read informational text we:

  • Call up and connect relevant prior knowledge
  • Predict, question, and wonder about what will be learned
  • Visualize and imagine
  • Monitor and use fix-up strategies
  • Summarize the most important ideas
  • Draw conclusions and make inferences
  • Evaluate and make judgments

Guess Yes or No

Focuses your student’s attention on important details in informational text by having them predict, before they read, which statements are true and which are false. First, you will read and construct 10 statements, some of which are true and some are false. Write the false statements so that they can be turned into true statements by changing one or two words. Include some statements that require students to make logic inferences to decide whether they are true or false. Also, include in the statements key vocabulary words students need to be able to pronounce and understand in order to fluently read the text.

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Use the “gradual release of responsibility model” when teaching comprehension lessons. The class will watch and listen as you model how to figure out whether the first two statements are true or false. They will help figure out the next two. Then the students will work together in trios to complete the final six statements. The assigned trios should include one good reader and one struggling reader.

Find It or Figure It Out

Your brain puts information you read together with information you know and figure out many things that are not directly stated. Find It or Figure It Out can be used to teach students how to use the information in the text and their prior knowledge to figure things out. Read the text and construct questions for each two-page spread. Make sure that the answers to the “find it” questions are quite literal and can be found “right there” in a sentence or two. Construct the “figure it out” questions so that they require the students to make logical inferences. The answers are not right there but there are clues that let you figure out what the answers are.

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Different Text Structures

Comprehending informational text requires all the strategies required for comprehending stories. In addition, readers must be able to follow the three different text structures commonly found in informational text and use the special features of informational text. These include:

  • Descriptive text: describes one thing
  • Compare and Contrast: tells the differences and similarities between two things
  • Sequence: organizes ideas or events according to the sequence in which they occur

Main Idea Trees

A tree can help children visualize and organize information. The topic you are learning about is the trunk of the tree. The main ideas about that topic are the large main branches and the details that relate to each main idea are the small branches that go off the large branches.

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Time Lines

Time lines help us organize information in which the sequence of events is what is important.

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Compare/Contrast Bubbles

Also known as Venn diagrams

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This teaches students to use the visuals in an informational text to build vocabulary and to predict what they will read. The lesson begins with students seated in trios and talking about 10-15 visuals from the text they are about to read. Students have 20 seconds to look at each visual, talk about it, and try to predict words they will read connected to the visual. . Next students have 8 minutes to write as many words as they can think will occur. At the end of 8 minutes, students look at their words and choose one word they think all the other groups will also have, one word they think is unique to their group, and one word they are most interested in. Next, the trios read the text together. They put a check on each word they listed that actually occurred and add five words they wish they had thought of. The class reconvenes and shares their discoveries. At the end of the lesson, students write a short paragraph using as man of their words as they can to tell what they have learned. IMG_E1247 (1)IMG_E1248 (1)

Text Feature Scavenger Hunt

Learning how to read visuals – pictures, maps, charts, and graphs – and how headings, highlighted words, and other informational text features help us is not something most elementary students get excited about. You can make it fun and engaging by organizing your class into teams and sending them on a scavenger hunt.

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Classroom Application

I would love to use all of the strategies listed above. My favorite was the scavenger hunt as a fun way to have students use the text to find their answers. I also really liked the Main Ideas Tree. I am a very visual learner and this was a great visual as well as a great organizational tool to organize ideas. Comprehension is so important that having all of these methods to help with informational texts will be so helpful in the classroom some day.