It’s time for lesson five in a 12-part series between This Reading Mama and The Measured Mom! Our simple writing series is designed to help kids become better writers – while it’s being written for first and second graders, you’ll find you can easily adapt these lessons to many different grade levels.
A common frustration for classroom parents and homeschooling teachers is the brevity of our students’ writing. We know they’re capable – so why are they writing just three sentences and saying they’re done? We encourage them to write more – and they tell us, “I don’t know what else to say.” How can we teach them to be independent writers who expand their stories without our help?
Today’s mini-lesson will equip them to do just that.
Simple Writing Lesson #5: Ask questions.
(a drafting strategy)
(Note: I taught this lesson to my six-year-old daughter who has just begun first grade. It can easily be adapted to children in older grades.)
When to use it:
When your student’s writing is simple and lacks detail. You know your little writer has more to say; you want to help her find the words.
How to teach it:
1. Prepare your materials. You will need a writing notebook for you and one for your child, two writing utensils, and examples of prior writing your child has done.
2. Introduce the lesson. Here’s how it sounded at our house:
“Lately I’ve noticed you’re writing about some really interesting things, but you don’t write very many sentences — sometimes just three. Today I want to show you how to think of more things to say as you write. As you write your story, think of questions someone might ask. Then answer them in your writing.”
3. Pull out your own notebook and model the strategy.
You’ll want to choose a topic to write about that will interest your child. Since my daughter has a fascination with McDonald’s (because we choose not to take her there!), I thought I’d write about when I worked there as a teenager.
“I’m going to write about a job I had when I was a teenager.” WHEN I WAS 16, I WORKED AT MCDONALD’S.
“McDonald’s!! You worked there?”
“Yes, I did! Now… what else could I write? I’m going to think about a question someone might have. Someone might ask, ‘What did you do when you worked there?’ So I’ll write…” I TOOK ORDERS AND WORKED AT THE DRIVE THRU.
“Now… can you think of another question someone might ask?”
“Did you like it?”
“Good question! Let me answer it in my writing.” I LIKED SOME OF THE PEOPLE I WORKED WITH, BUT THE JOB WAS TIRING, BUSY, AND MESSY.
“Someone might ask me why it was tiring, busy, and messy. So I’m going to write about that next.” IT WAS TIRING GETTING ORDERS FOR SO MANY PEOPLE. IT WAS MESSY BECAUSE IN BETWEEN ORDERS I HAD TO WASH ALL THE GIANT METAL DISHES.
“Now, do you have any questions about my story?”
“What kinds of messes did you have to clean up?”
“Let me think about that…” ONE TIME, OUR ICE CREAM MACHINE LEAKED ALL OVER, AND I HAD TO CLEAN UP A BIG MESS ON THE FLOOR!
This time, she had a question without my prompting her.
“What other messes did you have to clean up?” So I wrote, ALSO, THE FLOOR AND BATHROOMS HAD TO BE WASHED EVERY NIGHT.
Again I modeled how to ask myself a question.
“Someone might ask, ‘How late did you work at night?'” I WORKED UNTIL MIDNIGHT. I’M GLAD I DON’T WORK THERE ANYMORE!
4. Have your child choose a topic and write her own story. As she writes, ask questions and encourage her to ask her own to help expand her writing.
My daughter got right to work. THE STORY OF BOOKS. I LIKE BOOKS. I READ THEM ALL THE TIME.
I asked, “What kind of books do you like to read?” So she wrote: I LIKE STORYS OF WICHES AND BAD THINGS.
I prompted my daughter to think of and answer her own questions. She decided to answer the question, “Where do you read them?” I READ THEM AT SCHOOL AND AT HOUM.
Then she got very silly and started giggling as she wrote this: I ALSO LIKE POPCRON. HEE HEE!
She was having trouble thinking of her own questions, so I asked another one, “What is your favorite story about a bad witch?” She wrote — I LIKE ALL KINDS OF STORYS OF BAD WICHES.
5. Revisit other writing your child has done and ask questions about the stories. Encourage your child to move beyond yes or no questions.
“Now we’re going to look at other things you’ve written and think about questions someone might ask.”
“Can you think of a question someone might ask?”
“I can’t think of anything.”
“How about — ‘What else did you do at swimming lessons?'”
“Yeah. And someone could ask – ‘Did you like swimming lessons?'”
“It looks like you already answered that. Can you think of a question that doesn’t have a yes or no answer?”
This was quite challenging for her. We tried a different story.
“Someone might ask – what was it like in the waves?”
“It was fun.”
“Can you think of an answer that’s more than just a word?”
(She thought). “It was full of seaweed.”
“That would be a great thing to add to the story! Any other questions someone might ask?”
“Did you like the picnic?”
Again, a yes or no question – this in itself is a challenging skill!
“Let’s try one more. What might somebody ask about this story?”
“Did you like the candy?”
“That’s a yes or no question again. How about this one… What else did you see at the parade? Or why was there a parade?”
“We saw cars with people in them. And we had a parade because it was a celebration!”
6. In the future, encourage your child to expand her writing by asking herself questions.
You will need to revisit and remind your child of this strategy many times – but eventually it will become a natural habit, and you’ll marvel at how much more detail she includes in her writing!
*Stock photo via Depositphotos
You can see the rest of the writing lessons in our series by clicking on the image below.
You’ll be blown away by our ebook and its accompanying resources!
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