Sunday, April 21, 2013

Polar Bear Non-Fiction Writing

After a lot of work on personal narrative and opinion writing, we started to work on non-fiction writing. I really love Hope King's style and purchased her Polar Bear unit. Check out her Winter Writing Bundle on TeachersPayTeachers by clicking here. It is really cute and my examples here use her product.

First, we filled out the K and W in a KWL about polar bears. Using the "want to know" section, we brainstormed different topics that the kids could research. I wanted it to be VERY specific so students could manage the research independently. Once students chose their topic, either habitat, diet, or body (physical attributes), we went to the computer lab.

If your students have access to the Internet, National Geographic for kids has a great website for non-fiction research. I gave students the direct link to the polar bear page and asked them to find three facts about their topic, using a simple tree chart to take notes. (Sorry, I forgot to take a picture of Hope's super cute sheet).

This is a screenshot of National Geographic Kids website for polar bear. Click here to access the NatGeo Kids animal site.
Next, we used the stoplight paragraph strategy to organize their writing. (Click here to check out how I taught this concept to my students.) They first took the facts that found and wrote them in the supporting details section, highlighting them in yellow. Next, after another class discussion about what a topic sentence is and looking back to our cookies example, I asked students to develop their green topic sentence. The main idea I kept going back to with them was, "what do your facts tell you about the polar bear's (habitat, diet, or physical characteristics). With that in mind, many students were able to do this independently. Many other needed conferences, but that makes sense! Isn't the topic sentence the hardest part for all writers?

Once the had their topic sentence, students were asked to write their red closing sentence. Most of them were able to do this once their topic sentence was written.

After mapping out their writing, the traditional 1st, 2nd, final draft process began. I asked students to write their first draft using the colors to help them practice visualizing their writing, but by the time they were on the 2nd draft they were writing in normal pencil. I used my usual writing conference strategy I wrote about here and discovered one other handy trick.

Students who are rewriting another draft often skip lines accidentally. I've found that using an extra piece of paper to stay on the correct line helps kids stay on track.

I felt that the kids wrote really well and I was very proud of their work! Anyone else have some great writing they would like to share?

P.S. Hope King did not ask for any sort of endorsement, I just loved her product and wanted to share how I used in my classroom. Please feel free to use any of my strategies, but if you want to finished product to look as cute as hers, I recommend purchasing the unit. I've loved it and it is totally worth it :)

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