Graham Foster worked with the Calgary Catholic School Division as a Language Arts supervisor and now works as a writing consultant.  I was privileged to work with him no a project developing student exemplars for writing.  His book  Exemplars: Your Best Resource for Student Writing has several works in it written by my students or myself.  Every time I see his name as a presenter I make sure I attend.  I always learn something new.

His presentation today was all about using Writing in Social Studies.  His went through an interesting progression to develop a higher level of thought and writing in social studies.

  • Create deliberate inquiry assignments – get to higher level thinking – force students to take a position (personal judgment) and support it with reasons and facts
  • Guide use of pre-writing that works for deliberative inquiry (persuasive writing) assignments – RAFTS (ROLE, AUDIENCE, FORMAT, TOPIC, STRONG VERB), T charts, webs
  • Guide students with drafting, introductions, and conclusions – have students deconstruct an essay to show how to build one – use an exemplar!  Tear apart the exemplar and build it back up using the planning structure.

Drafting Advice:

  1. If you have nothing to write on the draft and the page is blank, the prewriting has failed you.
  2. Often it is better to writing the opening paragraph last
  3. Talk is a powerful strategy for writer’s block
  4. Maintain your flow – make any problems, but keep going
  5. Write on every second line to leave room to cross out
  6. Have a very strong interesting introduction(ask a question, state a startling fact, state a foolish or incorrect view, use an effective quotation)
  7. Bring writing together in the closing (answer questions posed in your intro, emphasize a point of view, warn or give a statement, offer an alternative viewpoint)
  • Guide students in revision with specific criteria related to deliberative inquiry writing – Pick out the really important things that must be included in the writing. WISPS – Words, Information, Support, Position, Spelling

Examples of revision criteria:

  1. I included important information related to the assignment
  2. I clearly state my position in response to the question
  3. I give reasons to support my position
  4. I use words that clear and accurate
  5. I have made corrections for punctuation and usage
  6. My paragraph begins with a topic sentence
  7. Every sentence in my paragraph clearly relates to my topic sentence
  8. My concluding sentences emphasizes the action I am recommending
  • Create exemplar lessons focused on elements of deliberative inquiry writing – collect student writing to use with students.  The power in providing examples of positive and negative is immense.  Students rise to high expectations and have a direction.  Think about lessons on introductions, conclusions, and adding showing not telling details to writing.

Be clear in your own position, but be respectful and acknowledge the perspective of others.    Make your personal decision clear, and support it!