My class this year is by far my most advanced academically and best behaved, but their writing is a weakness. I would say one of my weaknesses was teaching paragraphing. I kept saying that students needed to change paragraphs when introducting a new character, having a change in setting, when an important event occurred, and when using dialogue between different "speakers." I kept pointing out how the authors of stories in our reading anthology changed paragraphs, and asked students what the purpose of the paragraph change was.
Our CRT (Curriculum Resource Teacher - we're so lucky to have her, especially with the economy) also let me borrow her copy of Scholastic's Paragraph Power: 50 Engaging Mini-Lessons, Activities, and Student Checklists for Teaching Paragraphing Skills. My students slowly began to learn the difference between descriptive, expository, and narrative writing. They even began to include main idea beginning sentences and closing sentences, but they weren't really carrying the skill over from day to day...
I have realized why students are so poor at writing paragraphs now, and I think a big part of it is that we often use picture books or short stories in reading textbooks. You will often see that some books have one or two lines of text and no indention...essentially no paragraphs! We teachers also let their imaginations run wild and we don't want to overcorrect them because they finally write beyond a simple sentence in second grade...but they tend to feel that quantity is better than quality! Who hasn't experienced a student asking, "How long does it have to be? Is this enough?!"
I also bought Teaching with Intention by Debbie Miller. Between that, Pinterest, and the Anchor Chart Linky Party I came across, my solution has been to create anchor charts and post them in the room. It's just not enough to put them on the Promethean Board and refer back to them occasionally! Our writing is slowly but surely improving. I am still having to force my students to pre-write though....hopefully it will be less of a task in the near future!
Here are some writing anchor charts we have created as a class over the last few weeks.
Sorry it's so dark and messy!
Focus Trait: Organization