Word webs

These are some examples of word webs which some of my students completed this week. We spent a couple of periods selecting words which tantalized and enchanted us and then created word webs. Each of the 4 corners of the word web, can be different and can be modified to suit your learning goal. The 4 I selected were: dictionary/sentence; illustration; word building and word art.

How to create an environmental disaster

This presentation has been created, inspired by the ideas of Corbett Harrison – Life is a Cook book. I asked the students to think of a current issue, then write it up as a recipe. The above youtube clip, will explain what I mean. The students loved it. What I love about the idea, is that the students have to know the details about the issue, to be able to create the recipe, but creating a recipe, is way more fun than writing a traditional “report” of the issue.

Written Conversation

A written conversation is a note writing tool for engaging and discussing ideas.Students can all “talk” at once and it’s still quiet in the room. Unlike out loud discussions that vanish into thin air – letters leave artefacts that can be used or assessed later.Live – here and now conversations are when students pass notes in class
The take away version is when the reader has to wait and retrieve the note from a mailbox or email etc to read it. The teacher may like to join in the conversation as well. Students might typically have a regular dialogue journal buddy and write to each other once a week.The text is the key to success of the activity. You need something short, complex and central to the subject field.

An example of a written conversation

Writing Break


“Writing breaks are a reminder to me to just shut up every once in a while and let the kids think.” While we often feel pressured to talk till the bell – to pack as much content as we can into a class period – we also know that kids don’t remember as much when they are overwhelmed. as we said in chapter 1, less content can be more, if more is actually retained.” p 31 Content Area Writing – Harvey Daniels, Steven Zemelman, Nancy Steineke

A writing break is a break, at specific points during the class, where students stop and reflect in writing on the class / information so far. Some quick, turn and talk sharing usually follows the writing, then the class resumes.


These figures will amaze you (well they amazed me). Kids recall between 10 and 30 % of what they read, hear and see.By incorporating writing breaks at regular intervals, about every 10 – 20 minutes, you can really kick the retention up a notch because writing and then talking about it, moves the sticking rate into the 70 – 90 % range.

Exit Slip


An exit slip is a short, low stakes, written reflection by the students, of the current lesson or topic. Exit slips can be written in a book, but are most easily written on sticky notes, which can then be stuck to a master piece of paper, or into the teacher’s book. Exit slips are written at the end of the class, in the last 5 minutes, and can be prompted or unprompted – depending upon the needs of the teachers. Exit slips can be used to gather soft data about the child. By using open ended, clever prompts, teachers can glean all manner of information about how well the students have understood the task, what questions they may still have, any misconceptions and a general idea of how much the students have enjoyed the task. These exit slips must be written by each child before they leave the classroom. Students should put their names on each slip. Prompts must be designed to inform your teaching, so that teachers can use them to decide things such as where to next? and which children need support or extending.

For some examples and further explanation – check out this site – Reading Rockets

Read Aloud – why use this strategy?

“A read aloud is a planned oral reading of a book or print excerpt, usually related to a theme or topic of study. The read aloud can be used to engage the student listener while developing background knowledge, increasing comprehension skills, and fostering critical thinking. A read aloud can be used to model the use of reading strategies that aid in comprehension.”

The Elementary Science Integration Projects (ESIP)

Read alouds promote listening and comprehension skills, expose children to fluent, expressive reading and new information, help students deepen their understanding on a theme or topic, broaden vocabulary as well as allowing students to simply appreciate good literature.

Cornell notes / double entry journal

Any time you have ruled a line down the middle of a page and compared two things by listing pros and cons, you have used a double entry journal. A version of double entry journals, is CORNELL NOTES.

This structure allows students to record the main ideas / key words on the left hand side, and to reflect, wonder and respond to the information as they go. At the bottom of the page, students can then re read their notes, and make a summary of the information.

“Double entry journals are very flexible. Within a unit, double-entry journals can be used to deepen text understanding, show the thinking behind problem solving, or compare ideas, information, characters and so on.”
p.85 Content-Area Writing – Harvey Daniels, Steven Zemelman and Nancy Steineke

Writing to Learn – what is it?

“To get true learning power, kids must put ideas into their own words.”

p 26 Content Area Writing – Harvey Daniels, Steven Zemelman, Nancy Steineke

Writing to learn is different to high stakes, public writing. Writing To Learns are:
Short;spontaneous;exploratory;informal;personal;one draft;unedited; and ungraded.

This semester, in my role as literacy coach, I am introducing some of the Writing to Learn strategies which are explained in the above book, Content Area Writing.