Week 10: Chapter 9 in Creating Writers

Posted: November 10, 2013 in Uncategorized, Write on!

Going Informational

Informational writing (writing to teach) is something that students, such as Calvin (above) find difficult and boring. However, Spandel dispels this myth in Chapter 9. Expository writing should grasp the reader’s attention, and writers can achieve this by making use of the 6+1 traits. Spandel first addresses the traits and how they apply to informational writing:

  • Ideas: the informational writer must weave together details (facts) to create meaning
  • Organization: this is critical! The reader must be able to follow what the writer is trying to say in order for learning to take place
  • Voice: a strong informational voice is an integral and crucial part of writing informational.
  • Word Choice: Writers still need to pick words that heighten reader interest.
  • Sentence Fluency: Sentences should be concise and shorter to allow for better reader comprehension of the subject.
  • Conventions: conventions are always important, and in informational writing, they help the reader see where references to other works have been made and can make reading a technical passage less tedious by the use of quotations and italics.
  • Presentation: formatting in creative ways guide your reader on a fun journey! Make use of presentation aids such as text boxes, arrows, charts, and colour.

When assessing informational writing, we can now ask, how were the traits used? Was the piece interesting? Was it purposeful? Did I want to read more?

Throughout the student examples, Spandel mentions the importance of teaching students how to reference information that is not their own thinking, as well as correctly citing these references in their paper. I agree with Spandel, and I feel that we should be teaching students at an early age the importance of referencing and as teachers, should model this by referencing our own work that we show in class (My reflection on technology, “cut copy paste” goes into further detail).

In the “strategies” section, I appreciated that Spandel focused on redefining the concept of research, as some students can find informational writing to be quite overwhelming. She also provides the reader with a great chart on page 289 that gives a list of informational possibilities (that can be researched and published using a variety of formats). By showing students that informational writing is more like an exploration (as you are discovering something unknown), we can break down resistance and have a positive writing experience.

Spandel also touches on “trait 8” or genre. Spandel gives good reasoning on why genre could be a trait, but does not go into detail on why she didn’t include genre as a trait. This statement has left me confused! I can see genre as an eighth trait: students should know what type of text they are writing about. Are they writing a narrative, a procedure; maybe even a piece on persuasive writing? Genre defines how we write, and is therefore important to understand and be able to assess for comprehension. Spandel does give the reader a quick checklist for genre using the persuasive argument as an example. Although useful, I would have liked to see more text type examples and their respective checklists and student examples.

After reading this chapter, I feel more confident about teaching informational writing. By incorporating different formats and allowing students to write about a subject that interests them, students are more likely to stay on task and enjoy the writing process.

As I am sitting here writing my final entry for this course, I am having a sort of “AHA!” moment. I have learned that good writing is a process. We start off using language and pictorials to express ourselves, followed by hesitant lettering and broken sentences. Then, we learn about the traits of writing, we are given our toolkit to help us become better writers. We continue to use this toolkit our entire lives, and each year our writing improves. For me, the writing process is like the teaching process: we start out learning how to teach, not quite sure of what to do (help!) Then, wonderful professors swoop down from the heavens and cradle us in their wings: they teach and model what good teaching looks like. At the end of our program, we have our “teaching toolkit,” and each year we become more capable and competent. 

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