PS/IS 686 | Brooklyn, NY

Here, Let Me Teach You…Informational Writing in 301 & 302

“Writers must…constantly ask: what am I trying to say?”

William Zinsser, On Writing Well

Nonfiction informational text surrounds us as humans in the world today. Not only do we navigate reading informational texts such as maps, directions, signs, newspapers, and magazines, but so much of our day to day writing is informational. Just think about what you may have written today – emails, text messages, shopping and to-do lists, thank you notes, blog posts. Nonfiction is the largest genre of reading and writing that humans encounter. It takes on many forms such as expository nonfiction – think, fact filled National Geographic articles – to narrative non-fiction such as a longform New Yorker biographical profile – to opinion writing like the New York Times Op-Ed.

Because our world is so saturated with information, it’s important for our little third grade humans to be able to write organized, thoughtful informational texts.

In our third grade Informational Writing Unit we are writing from the stance of teaching.

So perhaps a more precise revision of the quotation above would be, “Writers must constantly ask: what am I trying to teach?”

We’re beginning our writing unit by writing expert books and really thinking about topics that we feel passionate enough about to teach others. These books do not require research and are a way for students to write about topics they know a lot about and that ignite their interests.

A big focus of this writing unit will be on organization and structure. We want to see students transferring all they know about informational reading into their writing. Students will try out writing chapters with sections and subsections complete with bold headings and subheading. Just as we push students to think about categorizing like with like in their nonfiction reading, we’ll push students to categorize their writing. To challenge our students even more we’ll ask them to match the best informational writing structure (chronological, cause and effect, problem/solution, etc…) to their writing. It takes real evaluative effort to create this kind of considered writing.

This students used a bulleted web to help him think through possible categories and chapters about Games.
Then he wrote long, putting everything he knew about Games onto the page
Another student used multiple webs to help her brainstorm.
She certainly knows a lot about swimming! The organization and structure will come later during drafting and again during revision. Right now during planning and brainstorming, it’s more important to get everything on the page.

This unit especially homes in on the idea that all literacy is connected; to be a skilled writer one must be a voracious reader. To be a skilled reader of nonfiction one must consider themselves a learner. To be a skilled writer of nonfiction one must consider themselves a teacher.

If this seems like a lot of work because it is a lot of work. But it’s the kind of deep work that elicits the deep satisfaction that comes with being proud of your effort.

I’ll leave you with another quote from William Zinsser:
“Writing is hard work. A clear sentence is no accident. Very few sentences come out right the first time, or even the third time. Remember this…If you find that writing is hard, it’s because it is hard.”

Ms. Sonya & Ms. Marcy

Upcoming Dates:

February 1st – Ice Skating Social

February 5th – No School – Lunar New Year

February 8th – Family Friday