You know how you’re always looking for new and exciting ways to teach your students the art of expressing themselves through the written word? Well, I’ve got some great news for you. In this blog post, we’re diving headfirst into creating informational writing lesson plans.
These are not your run-of-the-mill lesson plans; they’re the secret sauce to helping our students become stellar communicators, critical thinkers, and effective writers. So, grab your coffee and learn how to make teaching informational writing a breeze. Let me share my game-changing strategies that will have you and your students loving the process of informative writing.
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Why Informational Writing Matters
Informational writing is a big deal. It’s all about conveying facts, knowledge, and ideas to your readers. Whether you’re explaining a specific topic, describing an event, or reporting on your latest research findings, informational writing plays a crucial role in our everyday lives.
Think about it: when you read a blog post, a news article, or a textbook, you’re engaging with informational text. So, learning how to write effectively in this genre is essential. You’ll not only improve your own writing skills but also become a more informed and empowered reader. So, I would say the informative writing lesson plans might be your greatest writing resource in your teacher toolbox.
Informational Writing vs. Other Types of Writing
Before we dive into the tips, let’s clear up the distinction between informational writing and other types of writing. The three main types of writing taught in schools:
This type of writing is about presenting facts, data, or information clearly and organized. It’s often used in reports, essays, articles, and nonfiction books.
Narrative writing tells a story. It’s used in novels, short stories, and personal narratives. The focus is on characters, plot, and storytelling.
In opinion writing, the writer shares their perspective, point of view, or belief on a particular topic. It’s commonly found in editorials, persuasive essays, and blog posts.
The Writing Workshop
The writing workshop is a dynamic way to teach and practice informational writing. In a workshop, students can write, share their work with peers, receive feedback, and revise their writing. It’s a powerful method for honing their writing skills.
Teaching the Writing Process
Another important aspect of the writers’ workshop is understanding the writing process. While not all writing has to go through the writing process, it is important we help students understand that writing consists of several stages, and it’s essential to follow them to create a well-structured and polished piece of writing. Here are the key stages:
1. Prewriting – This is where you brainstorm ideas, select a specific topic, and gather relevant information. You can use graphic organizers, mind maps, or lists to organize your thoughts.
2. Drafting – In this stage, you put your ideas into sentences and paragraphs. Start with a strong topic sentence that introduces your main point.
3. Revising involves reviewing your draft for clarity, coherence, and organization. Check if your writing flows smoothly and if you’ve included all the important information.
4. Editing – In the editing stage, focus on grammar, punctuation, spelling, and sentence structure. Ensure that your writing is free from errors and is easy to understand.
5. Publishing – This is the final stage for preparing your writing for your audience. You can type or write out your final piece neatly, add illustrations or images, and make it presentable.
The Informational Text Structure
Understanding how to structure an informational piece is crucial. The typical structure includes:
1. Introduction – The introduction aims to grab the reader’s attention and provide an overview of your discussion. It’s where you’ll include your topic sentence, clearly stating your main idea.
2. Key Details – The body of your informational piece contains details supporting the topic’s main idea. Each paragraph should focus on a specific aspect of your topic. Start with a topic sentence, provide relevant information and evidence, and conclude the paragraph with a closing sentence.
3. Conclusion – The conclusion should summarize the main points and give the reader a clear understanding of the topic. Restate the main idea without introducing new information.
Using a Graphic Organizers
There are a lot of graphic organizers to help students organize their thinking. I like to keep it consistent and typically use the four-square template. This is the perfect organization for young writers.
A Closer Look at an Informative Writing Unit
To get good informational writing pieces from our students, we must first build background knowledge and vocabulary or teach them how to do it themselves. I like introducing the topic through discussion to find out what students already know about it and have them write it down. Then, use a video, book, or other resource to add to the discussion and see if students’ knowledge was correct or if they had a few misconceptions. Hopefully, this lesson sparks more questions and wonderings about the topic. These questions should help guide the student’s research and the teacher’s mini-lessons.
Learn More About the Topic Through Exploration
Then, take some time to explore the topic. If students have different topics to research, show them how to find resources or provide links and resources depending on their age. Here are some ideas for stations:
- Listening Station (Books Read Aloud)
- Observation Station (Experiements)
- STREAM Stations (Science, Technology, Reading, Engineering, Art, and Math)
I typically have exit tickets for each station to write what they learned about the topic. These exit tickets come in handy when it’s time to plan their writing.
The Power of the Mini-Lesson
Organizing the Research
Gather students as a whole class and model how to take the information from the stations and organize everything. You can do this in several ways, such as using Post-it notes or a Padlet. Then, take the information and add it to a 4-Square graphic organizer.
Writing an Introduction or Topic Sentence
The introduction is your chance to make a strong first impression. The purpose of the introduction is to let the reader know what the writing is about and to be intrigued and motivated to keep reading. Share strategies for creating compelling introductions, such as starting with a surprising fact, a thought-provoking question, or a powerful anecdote. Explore mentor texts of how authors do this and create an anchor chart of examples.
Anchor charts are an excellent way to represent key concepts and writing strategies visually. They can be used as reference tools in the classroom. Create anchor charts for various aspects of informational writing, including the structure, introduction strategies, and citing sources.
Mentor texts are examples of well-written informational pieces that can serve as models for students. Choose informative writing mentor texts that are engaging, informative, and aligned with the grade level. Analyze these texts with your students to highlight effective writing techniques.
Three squares from the graphic organizer are key details about the main idea. Students in 1st and 2nd grade may write one sentence per square, but as they get into 3rd grade, they must provide more facts under each detail. This procedure is to be modeled during the mini-lesson. I like to use the Gradual Release Model. If all students are writing on the same topic, I might model the first square for the students, the second square we do together, and then the 3rd square is done as independent work. It looks as follows:
I do: Teacher models
We do: Student and teacher do it together
You do: Student does one on their own
Of course, once students get the hang of the structure, students can start writing their details on their own.
Teach Transitional Words
To ensure smooth transitions between paragraphs, use transitional phrases or words like “however,” “in addition,” and “on the other hand.”
Writing a Conclusion
The last square is the concluding statement or paragraph. The purpose of the conclusion is to wrap up the writing. It is basically reiterating the introduction. As with the introduction, use mentor texts and anchor charts to help students explore exemplar models.
Edit and Revise
After drafting your informational piece, take the time to edit and revise. Check for grammar and punctuation errors, and ensure your writing is clear and coherent. You may want to provide a writing checklist to help students stay organized and focused. This checklist can include items like:
- Do you have a topic sentence or paragraph?
- Do you have three key details that support the main idea?
- Read your story out loud to see if it makes sense.
- Cross out words or insert words.
- Circle words that are misspelled.
- Do you have correct punctuation?
- Is the conclusion a concise summary of the main points?
- Seek Feedback and Write the Final Draft
Have students share their writing with you or a peer. Constructive feedback can help improve writing and make it even better. Once students have completed the steps, they may write their final draft and prepare for publishing.
Digital Resources for Informational Writing
Students must publish their work somehow after the entire writing process. In today’s digital age, there are a lot of fun and exciting ways for students to share their writing.
Differentiation to Meet Students’ Needs
Every student is unique, and their learning needs may differ. Differentiation is a teaching approach that allows educators to adapt their instruction to meet the specific needs of each student. When teaching informational writing, consider the following strategies for differentiation:
Varied writing topics – Offer a range of writing topics so students can choose a topic that interests them.
Flexible grouping – Students can work in pairs, small groups, or independently, depending on their preferences and needs.
Scaffolded instruction – Provide additional support or scaffolding for students who may require it, such as graphic organizers or sentence starters.
Extension activities – Offer extension activities or projects for students who need more challenge or depth in their learning.
Different Ways to Explore Informational Writing
Informational writing can take many forms. While essays are common, students can explore other formats of informational writing. They include:
- Procedural Writing (How-To Writing)
- Text Features
- Compare and Contrast
Informational writing isn’t confined to a single subject area; it can span various fields of study. Here are some ideas for incorporating informational writing across different subject areas:
Social Studies: Write reports about historical events, famous figures, or cultural traditions.
Science: Explore scientific concepts, conduct experiments, and explain findings in detail.
Mathematics: Explain mathematical concepts, problem-solving strategies, or the history of famous mathematicians.
Done for You Informational Writing Unit Plans
To provide a comprehensive understanding of informational writing, you can develop unit plans that cover various aspects of this type of writing. These unit plans can include a sequence of lessons, suggested reading materials, activities, and assessments. You can align these plans with the Common Core or grade-level standards.
I hope this blog post has given you valuable insights into the world of informational writing. Whether a student or a teacher, these lesson plans and tips can help you master the art of conveying information effectively through writing.
Informational writing is a skill you can use in various aspects of life. It’s a valuable tool for sharing knowledge and ideas, from academic reports to professional documents. So, keep honing your skills, and remember that the best way to become an excellent writer is through meaningful practice and a passion for learning.
With the right guidance and resources, you can develop your informational writing skills and create well-structured, engaging, and informative pieces that captivate your readers. Happy writing!