This is a talk aloud for writing that I taught in a grade 4 classroom. After studying student writing, their teacher and I noticed that the writing abilities ranged from three word sentences to multiple paragraphs. There was very little evidence of the knowledge of writing structures either, so we decided to slowly move into descriptive writing. We started by having the students describe animals using the word like.
I started by reading passages from the book UGLY ANIMALS by Berger. The students were intrigued by the book title and cover and I took the opportunity to remind them how important choosing the right title can be.
I chose four passages from the book, that were written in the same style, and read them aloud to the students.I made sure to show them the matching photographs!
After reading the 4 passages I showed the students on (a chart paper) which attributes of the writing I had really liked. This could easily be done on a Smart board or digital projector. We looked at the passages again to see if what I liked about the author’s writing was actually there.
My next step was to tell them that I wanted to try writing in the same style as the Bergrers had. I read them my writing about a porcupine. I had it prepared on chart paper and I asked the students to correct my work together with me to see if I had included all the attributes of the published authors that I had liked. After we had corrected my writing together, we went on to write a class paragraph together.
As a class ,we decided to write about another strange animal-the Kiwi bird. We checked the attribute chart together to make sure our writing had all the chosen attributes .
Finally each student had to write their own paragraph. I chose a photograph of a Katydid and read them some facts about Katydids. Checking their own attribute list, allowed them a clear target as to when they would be done.
As Anne Davies says “Students can hit any target set for them, as long as it doesn’t move.” It is so important not to add to the attribute list or stray from it. Once the student writing has been evaluated additions or deletions may be made to a new attribute list for the next paragraph.
At this point it is best for students to write a few paragraphs in the same way. Stronger students can put the paragraphs together into a multiple paragraph about “ugly animals”, while weaker students work hard at putting together a strong single paragraph. Planning a talk aloud for writing is one of the most effective ways I know of to improve student writing. It requires preparation and planning but all students are able to feel success. Practice allows them to improve at their own rate. One well thought out talk aloud leads to multiple writing projects,hits a variety of objectives and can be integrated into science, health and social studies as well as the arts.