During the sixth grade, we do a lot of writing, and I like to introduce it as different text forms for students. So throughout the year they're going to be writing stories and myths, they're going to be writing recounts, Captain's Logs, procedures when they do their scientific experiments. They're going to be writing their reports, explanations, and expositions, and it's really important to teach them exactly what all of the features of those text forms are. So when they're writing a narrative, they're going to entertain their audience, so it has to be written really well and in an engaging way. It has to have setting, it has to have a problem, it has to have a solution to the problem at the end, and it has to have really rich characters. When they're writing a recount, they're going to write in chronological order. They're going to use linking words as they go through, so every different text form has a different purpose and different features, and it's really important to explicitly instruct the students in what those features are so that they know to apply it to their writing. They're going to use different vocabulary, they're going to organize it differently, the ideas that are required are different.
I found the First Steps Writing Book particularly helpful in teaching text forms, and one of the pages outlines all of the text forms and their features. Other parts of the book are really helpful because they have diagrams that outline the structure and how to organize each of the text forms, so this is a really great resource to use. Text forms are not only helpful for writing, they're also helpful for reading. So that if a student knows that they're reading an essay they know that there's going to be an introductory paragraph and that there's going to be some kind of arguments that are made, and that they are going to be built on as they read through the essay. And then there's going to be some kind of conclusion wrapping it up, so that it gets their mind engaged for what's coming. So, text forms are really a key understanding that I like students to have.
And another thing that I like students to do is to use symbols when they're self editing and when I'm editing their work. So when they'll write their rough copy and they'll hand it in to me to have a look at, I will use these symbols so that the students have some form of common understanding of what the errors are and how to make the corrections. A couple of them, like the WW, means that the word that they've misspelled is on the Word Wall, so they know they can find it quite quickly. Awkwardly written sentences, things to put in that have been left out. Just common things, but things to give everyone the same page to work from.
The goal of Ways to Write and Read: Understanding Text Forms (Virtual Tour) is to help students understand how the voice, structure, and vocabulary change when using different text forms.
- Text forms include narrative, recount, procedure, report, explanation, and exposition.
- It is important to remind students of the key features of the text form they are writing before they begin their drafts.