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Prewriting

Prewriting involves setting goals, exploring topics, and beginning to organize ideas. Planning gives students a writing “road map” to follow. Struggling writers tend not to spend enough time planning and organizing their writing. Differentiate instruction by integrating technology. Choose from flexible options and tools that prompt students to generate ideas, organize information, and develop prewriting plans.


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Prewriting includes choosing a topic and identifying a purpose and an audience. Your guidance gives struggling writers the direction they need to begin generating ideas.


Steps:


Step 1: Provide Direct Instruction


  1. Explain that during prewriting, students will develop a plan that includes choosing their genre, narrowing their topic, and assessing their audience and purpose. This allows them to organize, sequence, and expand their ideas prior to writing the first draft.
  2. Encourage brainstorming and mindmapping. Brainstorming helps students recall what they know about a topic. Mindmapping uses a diagram to link those points, ideas, and concepts. Students can use graphic organizers, outlines, or story maps. Use online tools (such as bubbl.us, edistorm.com, Inspiration.com, and spiderscribe.net) for prewriting activities.
    Ways to help students begin brainstorming/mindmapping


    • Have students write down their topic or subject, followed by anything that comes to mind about that topic (without categorizing). Have them keep writing until they can’t think of anything else to write.
    • Have students review all of their points, choose the ones that are most relevant to their topic, and cross off the rest.
    • Create a mindmap that displays the relationships between the ideas, points, and concepts. Students see the “big picture” as well as the details that make up the picture.

  3. Engage students in pre-blogging activities, such as writing lists, free-writing, and uploading student-made videos, podcasts, or drawings using online tools (e.g., KidPix or Crayola Art Studio). Ways to help students begin brainstorming/mindmapping:
    • Have students write down their topic or subject, followed by anything that comes to mind about that topic (without categorizing). Have them keep writing until they can’t think of anything else to write.
    • Have students review all of their points, choose the ones that are most relevant to their topic, and cross off the rest.
    • Create a mindmap that displays the relationships between the ideas, points, and concepts. Students see the “big picture” as well as the details that make up the picture.

View evidence behind this recommendation


IES Recommendations


Teach students to become fluent with handwriting, spelling, sentence construction, typing, and word processing.


Evidence:
Moderate


Source: IES Practice Guide: Teaching Elementary School Students to Be Effective Writers


Step 2: Help Students Write for a Variety of Purposes


  1. Use the interactive whiteboard and student tablets to demonstrate models, using mentor texts (e.g., published texts, web pages, online newspapers) to introduce a writing genre, identify the characteristics of that genre, and identify the tone and purpose of writing for different audiences. Model a think-aloud strategy to show students how skilled writers create a prewriting plan
  2. Use real-world, authentic scenarios whenever possible to help students relate to genres (see UDL Guideline 7: Provide options for recruiting interest and UDL Checkpoints 8.1: Heighten salience of goals and 8.3: Foster collaboration and communication).
  3. Provide genre-specific prompts to guide students’ thinking about what to include in their prewriting plan (see UDL Checkpoint 8.1: Heighten salience of goals).
    Strategies for authentic scenarios


    • Arrange with another teacher to “Buddy Up” with his/her class so that your students can practice letter writing using a blog or wiki.
    • Have students use safe, protected websites for communicating with children in other states or countries.
    • Have students develop topics for persuasive letters (for example, to the school principal, the PTA, their US Representatives) about an issue that matters to them.

View evidence behind this recommendation


IES Recommendations


Teach students to use the writing process for a variety of purposes.


Evidence:
Strong


Source: IES Practice Guide: Teaching Elementary School Students to Be Effective Writers


Step 3: Engage Students in Ongoing Assessment


  1. Encourage students to begin their digital writing portfolios using platforms such as Google Drive or Evernote, or iPad apps (e.g., Three Ring).
    Creating successful digital portfolios


    • Make sure students understand the differences between digital and print portfolios. Provide direct instruction and models.
    • Help students to set clear goals and purposes; develop clear definitions for the selection of content.
    • Encourage students to include different products, such as text, audio clips, videos, images, web pages, and so on.
    • Help students with the technical aspects, such as customization, adding, text, adding links, and so on.
    • Give students the freedom to demonstrate their creativity by decorating or personalizing their portfolios.

  2. Use guiding questions when you conduct short, informal conferences with students (e.g., How did you choose your topic? Why? Who is your audience? What prewriting strategies are you finding helpful?) (see UDL Guideline 6: Provide options for executive functions).
  3. Show students how to give feedback, even during the prewriting stage, so that both the writer and the peer editor can build skills in sharing information and can end the conference on a positive note (see UDL Checkpoint 8.3: Foster collaboration and communication).


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