Tag Archives: Writing Revolution

Writing Revolution Part 2: The Power of An Outline

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog post on building better sentences based on the Hochman Method of writing. The writing strategies require continuous practice starting with sentences so that students build their expository writing skills, clarify their thoughts, and express themselves with precision, accuracy, and clarity. The two primary goals of the program are  “to raise linguistic complexity of students’ sentences and to improve the organization of their compositions” (2014).

When it comes to paragraphs and compositions, a quick outline can help students structure their ideas and understanding for larger essays. Outlines enable students to develop their writing as a cohesive whole and visualize a beginning, middle, and end in their writing. Outlines can also help students distinguish essential versus nonessential material and sequencing information.

An outline has the following benefits:

  1. Provides Structure
  2. Eliminates Repetition
  3. Improves Adherence to Topic
  4. Aids in sequencing

Teachers should model a quick outline for the class before requiring students to complete outlines on their own.

Before beginning outlines one might give students a Topic Sense and Supporting Detail and have students identify which is the TS and which detail is SD. For example:

__________ Mitosis is a process of cell division.

__________ In the cell nucleus, chromosomes are separated into two identical sets.

This might be a do now for a science class posted on the board. Once students can identify the topic sentence, the class might follow up with a conversation to articulate their reasoning.

Another activity would be to give students four (4) sentences and have students sequence the sentences for a paragraph. For example:

_______ Harriet Tubman helped slaves to freedom.

_______ John Brown led a small rebellion against slavery.

_______ The anti slavery movement began to grow in the 1850s.

_______ Abraham Lincoln won the presidential election.

A third strategy that can be used as quick do now or exit ticket is to have students identify the topic sentence and eliminate irrelevant details by listing different information or giving students an entire paragraph of information.

All of these activities help students to think about the elements of paragraph writing and building stamina and critical thinking for essay writing.

The Hochman Method’s Quick Outline includes a Topic Sentence, Four details from the text and a Concluding Sentence. A teacher might give students a topic sentence and then ask students to find four textual details based on the course material before having students draft a concluding sentence that synthesizing the information learned as a way to scaffold the outlining process.

tapco_quick_outline_clean_copy

Note the dotted lines for the textual details. The dotted lines suggest to students that the do not have to write in complete sentences, rather include key words and phrases. The TS and CS are solid lines that require a complete, specific, and detailed sentence.

The Quick Outline template above is for a single paragraph.

Additional lessons for outlining include:

Students are given details and must generate a topic sentence.

Generate concluding sentence from a given topic sentence and details.

Given a paragraph, convert it into a quick outline.

Given a topic, generate a Quick Outline independently.

I will be embedding some of these practices into my lessons to help students develop their writing and make connections with the material we are studying. These strategies work across the content area as well. For the next essay assignment my students will write at the end of the month I am considering have them outline their thinking and grade the outline rather than write out the entire essay. Again, my intentions are to help my students become better communicators and write with clarity and precision while effectively articulating their thinking about reading.

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Powerful Writing Starts with Strong Sentences: 8 Sentence Activities to Use Across the Content Areas

“It does not do well to dwell on dreams and forget to live, remember that.” —J.K. Rowling,

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

“One must be careful of books, and what is inside them, for words have the power to change us.” 

—Cassandra Clare, The Infernal Devices

 

How do we get our students to write well?

How can teachers help students to string words together with poetry, grace, and meaning?

I recently attended a workshop on The Writing Revolution: The Hochman Method, an instructional approach to teaching writing and communication skills. Dr. Judith C. Hochman is the creator of the Hochman Method and founder of The Writing Revolution. Dr. Hochman was the Head of Windward School an independent school focused on teaching students with learning disabilities.  

We began with sentences and sentence activities. The idea is to start small in order to help students to write better. Focusing on sentences improves the substance of writing to raise the level of linguistic complexity and clarity, enhance revision and editing skills, and improve reading comprehension.

The following 8 sentence activities were presented to help student take command of their sentence writing and become better writers.

Sentence Fragments – A group of words that is not a grammatically complete sentence. Usually a fragment lacks a subject, verb or both or is a dependent clause that is not attached to an independent clause.  Teachers can post sentence fragments for students to repair. The aim is to address what is necessary to write complete sentences. For example, as a bell ringer have students identify the sentence fragments and change the fragments into complete sentences adding necessary words, capitalization, and punctuation.

the town of Macomb

does not remember her mother well

atticus finch is a lawyer

Scrambled Sentences – Another five minute do now is to have 7-9 words maximum for students to put together to make a complete sentence. One way to help students with this activity is to bold the first word of the sentence to help them unscramble the sentence.

Sentence Types – We use four different kinds of sentences when speaking and writing: Statements or Declaratives, Questions or Interrogatives, Exclamations, and Commands or Imperatives. Give students a topic or an image for them to write a sentence, question, exclamation, and command for. This strategy encourages students to think about the text and encourage precise language. To differentiate this activity  you can offer an answer and have students create a question that shows synthesis, comparison, and frames their academic vocabulary.

Q: _____________________________________

A: direction and magnitude

Possible question: What are the two defining characteristics of a vector?

Because, But, So – Because tells why, But changes direction, and So shows cause and effect. If we want students to think critically and not regurgitate information we can have students extend a sentence with but, because, and so. Each of these conjunctions help to change the meaning of the sentence.

Hammurabi created a written code of laws . . . .

Students can complete the sentence based on what they know and understand.

Hammurabi created a written code of laws because ________________________________________________

Hammurabi created a written code of laws, but ___________________________________________________

Hammurabi created a written code of laws, so ____________________________________________________

These three conjunctions can help students learn linguistically complex language and change of direction language that can help writing counterclaims. Additional transition words for but includes:  although, while, even though, however, on the other hand.

Subordinating Conjunctions – After, Before, If, While, Although, Even though, Unless, Since, When, Whenever. Rather than asking students questions about the text or material, use subordinating conjunction  sentence stems to evaluate comprehension and knowledge. For example,

Since Lennie has a mild mental disability in Of Mice and Men, ________________________________________

After Lennie meet’s Curley’s wife, _________________________________________________________________

Although Lennie promised to keep the farm a secret, ________________________________________________

Students can use a given subordinating conjunction to write a sentence about a character.

Although __________________________________________________________

Even though ________________________________________________________

If I was using the above activity with To Kill a Mockingbird, I might anticipate a student to write,

Although Tom Robinson was innocent and defended himself well, he was found guilty.

Even though Tom Robinson’s case seemed doomed from the start, Atticus agreed to defend him.

Appositives are a noun or noun phrase placed next to another noun to rename, or explain it more fully. Teachers can have students practice writing topic sentences with appositives. Another activity is to have student match appositives or fill in the appositives. Introducing appositives provides students a strategy to vary writing and help the reader provide more information. In addition, it improves reading comprehension. Another strategy is to give students an appositive and have students write a sentence around it.

Sentence Combining helps to teach grammar and usage because it requires students to gain syntactic control.

This strategy is from The Teacher’s Guide to Effective Sentence Writing by Bruce Saddler.

Let’s take the following five sentences:

People are innocent.

People are innocent according to a principle.

The principle is American.

The principle is legal.

They are proven guilty.

 

What did you come up with?

According to an American legal principle, people are innocent until proven guilty.

To scaffold this sentence activity you can give hints for students to use a conjunction or appositive. Additionally, you can differentiate the activity by giving the high fliers a challenge, the middle level students a hint, and for struggling or ELLs offer them a sentence starter.

Kernel Sentences – A simple, active, declarative sentence with only one verb and containing no modifiers or connectives. This activity is helpful for note taking because it gets at the who, what, when, where why, and how.

Snow fell.

Cells divide.

Pyramids were built.

Students state the when, where, and why.  Think of this like a puzzle, students need to complete every piece of information to write an expanded sentence.

In ancient times, pyramids were built in Egypt to protect the body of the deceased pharaoh.
Whether you try all the sentence activities or just a few, activities should be embedded in the content. Teacher demonstration and modelling is beneficial. Sentence strategies can be practiced in do nows and warm ups, stop and jots, exit slips or even test items.

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