Teaching Writing: Five Things You Need to Survive

Whoever said teaching writing is dull has never been inspired by some of the writing greats like Kelly Gallagher, George Hillocks Jr, and Donalyn Miller. These three people have heavily influenced my take on the teaching of writing. My first two years of teaching I struggled to capture the interest of my students while adhering to state mandated standards, but after studying theories and ideas from these three experts I’ve revamped my program and teaching writing has become an enjoyment. Reading their works have also made me a more confident writing teacher.

Currently, my students are working on an essay entitled, Five Things You Need to Survive in Lynn’s World. This assignment is based on the novel Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis which all regular education ninth grade students are reading at my school. I did a book review of this novel last spring as I prepared the unit. Check it out!

In order for my students to get a handle on what I was asking for in this informative essay I provided them a copy of the humorous essay from the Huffington Post, 10 Essentials for Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse: A Practical Guide by John Hornor Jacobs. As a small group they read through the article and highlighted language and ideas that stood out to them.

Then, in their groups they used the model essay to develop a plan of their own. They created a T-chart in their writing notebooks emulating some of the same styles used by John Hornor Jacobs, but applying his principles to their assignment. That assignment was to write an informative essay about five things needed to survive in the world of Lynn, the protagonist of Not a Drop to Drink.

This assignment is a fun approach to informative writing sprinkled with a bit of humor. Students are working in small groups to write the essay where each student is responsible for one paragraph or item from the list of necessities for survival. Also, like the model essay students are expected to think outside of the box when choosing their items. They are not allowed to use water, fire, or shelter as an item required for survival.

GoogleDocs is the platform we are using for the assignment as it allows several students to work on the same document at the same time. They are all able to use Chromebooks to work on their individual portion of the whole and they have instant access to editing tools, their peers.

This is the first time I’ve done this assignment and so far I am pleased with the how things are going. The students are engaged because they’ve already fallen in love with the text.They are also performing their own tasks as a member of a team.

This assignment serves as an introduction to informative writing. Plans have been laid for individual informative assignments, however, working in small groups is a stepping stone to writing on their own.

I’m excited to see the final products when the editing process is complete.

Modified copy of IMG_2169

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