If my family was not home, I would not like the Cat in the Hat to come over. I do not want the Cat in the Hat to come over because he would make a mess. In the book he made a mess in the tub and he kept rubbing it on everything. If this happened at my house, I would tell him to go out. I would not let him come over.
Color-coding paragraph structure gets students (and me) to visually check for missing parts in their paragraph. In the paragraph below, this friend read about Martin Luther King Jr. during Read to Self and wanted to write about him during Work on Writing. When she went to color-code her paragraph, she realized she had skipped writing a wrap-up sentence.
And again, this friend could easily see she provided lots of reasons, but did not take the time to explain them. This was a ‘cold’ On Demand prompt, so it was interesting for me to see as a teacher what we were missing. After looking at several paragraphs missing green, we went back and practiced explaining our details and reasons!
Now, not all paragraphs are structured the same. So, I do teach my friends to be flexible. Sometimes (toward the end of the year), our color-coding only denoted different parts of our paragraph. Below you’ll see a paragraph we wrote as a class about wood and jumping spiders. The main idea and wrap-up sentence are the same color (because they have the same jobs). Our comparisons are one color (green) and our differences are one color (red). In this situation, I want students to be able to easily differentiate between the parts of the compare/constrast paragraph.
Here is another expamle of some shared writing we did (this paragraph took us two separate mini-lessons). Again, we were flexible in our colors – grabbing the EXPO markers on the tray – but still making sure to identify the parts of our writing – main idea/wrap-up sentence, comparisons, differences.
Teaching students to color-code their writing is a simple way to help our friends organize their ideas and easily check to see if something is missing. But, as seen in our compare and contrast paragraphs, flexibility is key. We need to teach students that the colors aren’t as important as the content. It’s a slow transition, but an important one!
So friends, tell me, how do you teach students to organize their writing? Next week, I’ll be sharing how we also use graphic organizers to structure our writing. But, please, tell me what works for your friends? I’d love to hear your ideas!
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