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High School — Writing
Writing Applications

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    Writing Applications

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      Activities: Help with Fundamentals

      These activities can help you address the fundamentals of Writing Applications with your students.

      Introducing the Writer's/Reader's Journal

      A journal can serve as a place for student writers to write often and free from formal assessment. Asking students to keep an ungraded journal can promote deep thinking about subjects discussed in students' classes or daily lives. Encourage your writers to decorate their journals with art, photography or color so they feel a personal connection to them.

      The journal is also a place for students to write informally about their reading. The journal entries will range in length for a few sentences to several pages. The writing must be legible, but it need not be entirely correct or revised. Instead, encourage students to start writing quickly and let ideas develop as they write.

      Explain to students that the reader's journal is not a diary or a class notebook; rather it borrows features from each. Like a diary, the journals are written in the first person about issues that students care about as readers and writers. Like the class notebook, journals are concerned with the content of the course. They are intended as a place for literary response.

      Students may use the reader's journal for any of the following purposes:

      • Prewriting for essays, narratives or formal literary responses;
      • Answering questions posed in class;
      • Writing questions about puzzling passages;
      • Predicting what comes next;
      • Writing alternative beginnings and endings to stories;
      • Preparing to participate in class meetings;
      • Copying and commenting on favorite passages;
      • Making personal responses (such as opinions on the text);
      • Responding to the most important words, sentences or passages;
      • Associating personal experiences;
      • Expressing identification with characters.
      Introducing the Writer's Conference: Focusing the Conference

      Conducting individual writer's conferences with each of your students allows you to provide personalized feedback. It also saves you a great deal of time. A teacher's paper load can be exhausting. It can be challenging to provide relevant written feedback on all work you assign. The writer's conference enables you to reduce paperwork by delivering your feedback as a conversation with each student. They, in turn, can ask questions or make revisions. Confer with individual writers and assess while students are writing. This interactive process demonstrates that the act of writing is a dynamic, evolving process that is not necessarily linear.

      For students who have difficulties grasping the fundamentals of writing, be sure to focus their conferences on particular areas. Rather than conferencing on every aspect of their work--from organization to conventions--establish some key areas for direction. Try to isolate three specific suggestions for the student. Offer some positive observation on their progress, a clear identification of the issue to address, and some pointed questions to guide them towards revision. It is also helpful to establish a timeline for students so that the revision process is contained.

      Inspired Writers: Reading Letters to the Editor

      Letters to the editor serve as useful models because these letters have often been edited and proofed and are unlikely to contain extraneous details and inconsistencies. They also show how to address audience, purpose and context in a clear and efficient manner.

      Through class discussion or journal writing, discover issues that are important to your students. What events are happening in the world that they are concerned about or that seem important to them? Discuss the way that people are inspired to share their views on particular issues by writing letters to publications. Ask each student to find and share a letter to the editor, published in a school, local or national newspaper that addresses an issue of social importance. In groups, ask students to examine these letters and discuss the following elements:

      • Who is the audience for this letter and what is the stated purpose? (Why did the writer write this letter to the editor? How do you know?)
      • What technical terms or specific vocabulary did the writer use in the letter?
      • Which facts and details support the writer's point?
      • How did the writer bring closure to the letter?
      Text Support: Analyzing Individual Examples

      To help students use textual support in their writing, begin by selecting key passages or quotations from a text you are studying and writing about in class. Provide a structure to help students analyze the individual quotations. Suggest the following steps to guide students through textual analysis:

      • Read the passage/quotation once to get a sense of what the writer is trying to say. Jot down a few words to summarize the main idea.
      • Read the passage again and consider the characterization: How does the author present and describe the character in this passage? How do actions, words and thoughts reveal the character's personality and the personalities of others?
      • Read the passage a third time to look for details about the society: What political, economic or religious events are influencing the characters or events? How is this evident in the passage?
      • Finally, take a look at the language: Why does the author choose certain words? Is there figurative language that contributes to your understanding of the events? What imagery or symbols does the author use?

      Have students use these four steps to analyze text samples individually, in groups and as a class. Using these four steps to practice textual analysis will provide scaffolding for using text examples to justify literary interpretations or support a research topic.

      Building a Persuasive Argument: Analyzing the Persuasive Prompt

      Encourage your writers to carefully analyze the prompt in order to generate ideas to meet the requirements of persuasive writing. Students should use structure to plan their response to the task. The following questions will provide guidance:

      • What is the central topic? What arguments can I make? What do I know about this topic?
      • Who is the audience? Is the audience clearly stated or is it not identified? How does this affect my choices?
      • What is the purpose of the writing task? How do I know I am being called upon to persuade (or narrate, respond, describe, etc.)?
      • What strategies should I use? (For example, can I provide definitions, analyze, explain cause-and-effect or compare-and-contrast?)
      • What is my role as the writer? Have I been given a particular role (like a representative or job applicant)? If not, is there a role I should take?

      Analyzing the prompt will act as a springboard to prewriting.

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