1. Composition Book Intro


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1. Composition Book Intro

  1. 1. ull”n “F io Vers What is Good Writing? More More inForMation Visit ttMs.org by Steve Peha
  2. 2. The Writing Strategy Organizer 1 Pick a topic… 2 Develop an idea… 3 Add detail… 4 Add “showing” detail… Topic T-Charts What-Why-How Idea-Details Tell-Show Like Hate What Why How Idea Details Tell Show Pizza Homework My dog is the most He protects me. Whenever someone At the park we He runs as fast as He runs as fast as As I take out the Baseball Cleaning my room amazing animal in comes to the door play frisbee. He he can. he can. frisbee, he starts My dog All vegetables the whole wide he barks to let me catches it in his to wag his tail. As Cars Math world. know. mouth and He jumps up in the He jumps in the soon as I let it fly, Recess Spelling tests brings it back. air. air. he tears after it as Disneyland Rainy days He plays with me. At the park we play He almost never fast as he can. Just David Letterman Scary things frisbee. He catches it misses. when I think he’s Money Being bored in his mouth and not going to get it, Fishing Getting dressed up brings it back. People can’t be- he leaps into the Paintball lieve how good he air, stretches out Staying up late He does my He’s great with is. his neck, and homework for me. math. He has a lit- He can jump about snags it between tle trouble holding 5 feet high. his teeth like a wild Like/Hate the pencil, though. animal capturing Things you like and things you hate. He’ll only catch it if his prey. He makes money We were on David I throw it. Typical/Unusual for me. Letterman’s “Stupid Typical life experiences and unusual life experiences. Pet Tricks.” Disney Make a Paragraph How Do You Do This? just called about a movie deal. With just a few changes, the idea and supporting details Learning to create great “showing” details takes a lot of Fun/Have To can easily be combined into a paragraph: practice. For tunately, practicing is easy and fun. The best Things you do for fun and things you do What do you think? way to get started is to visualize a scene before you start because you have to do them. This is your opinion. “Sometimes, my dog and I go up to the park to play fris- to write. Try this: bee. As soon as I throw it, he runs as fast as he can to Change/Stay the Same Why do you think it? catch it. He jumps high in the air and catches it in his • Think about your “telling” detail(s). Things you want to change and things you want teeth. He can jump about five feet high. People can’t be- • Close your eyes and make a picture in your mind. These are the reasons that support your opinion. lieve how good he is because he almost never misses. But to stay the same. • Make a mental list of everything you “see” in the he’ll only catch it if I throw it.” How do you know? “picture.” Regret/Proud Of These are the examples, evidence, descriptions, • Now, in your writing, describe the scene that you’ve Things you regret and things you are proud of. Not every detail needs to be used. Often, writers will or reference citations that prove your opinion. change things around a bit as they go along. created in your mind. 5 Develop a narrative… 6 Capture a scene… 7 Create a strong beginning… 8 Plan an entire piece… Transition-Action-Details Draw-Label-Caption Action-Feelings-Setting Content-Purpose-Audience Transition Action Details Big trees Birds It’s windy Main Idea Key Details About a month My dog and I went • The wind was real- ago… to Andrews Park ly blowing. What’s the one most What details will to play frisbee. • There was hardly important thing you help your audience anyone at the park. want your audience “unlock” your main to know? idea? I ran him • I tried to stop my I took out the fris- dog from going after around for a bee and threw it Wagging My Think Do while, and it, but it was too late. dog What do you want What do you want hard and it took • He ran off. I couldn’t tail then… off over the trees. Me your readers to your readers to do see him anymore. think about after after they’re He’s they’re finished? finished? • There was some excited The frisbee went construction on the Action Feelings Setting over the trees and other side, and I was People Questions down a steep hill. worried my dog I’m playing frisbee with my dog at Andrews Park. I’ve just thrown the WHAT: I’m excited We’re up at might get hurt. frisbee, and my but also a little Andrews Park. It’s Who are you What does your au- dog is starting to scared. really windy and writing to? dience want to know • He was all dirty. go after it. cold. There aren’t about your topic? A few minutes My dog came run- It looked like he’d A Few Things to Think About WHY: I threw it too many people later,… ning back with the been in the mud. • This is just a rough sketch, not a finished illustration. far and he’s going around. frisbee. • He had a cut on to run off into the his ear. • Label everything you can think of. trees where he Content • In your caption, write down anything you think is im- might get hurt. The main idea plus key supporting details. portant. Fill out the ACTION column first, the DETAILS column next, “It was cold and windy that day at Andrews Park, and there Purpose and the TRANSITION column last. Try to keep the number • Each thing you identify in the picture is a detail you can use when you start to write. weren’t very many people around. I threw the frisbee hard What you want your readers to thnk and/or do. of ACTIONs between 3 and 7. Each row of the chart can into the wind and it just took off like I’d never seen before. be a separate paragraph. Or, several rows can be com- • Spending time on the picture makes you more familiar Immediately, my dog started chasing after it. And as I saw it Audience bined together. It depends on how many DETAILS you with the scene and helps you think of things to write sail off over the trees and toward a big construction site, I The people you are writing to and the important questions have. Not every row needs a TRANSITION. about. started to get worried.” they have about your topic. © 1995-2003 by Steve Peha. For more information, or for additional teaching materials, please contact: Teaching That Makes Sense, Inc. • E-mail stevepeha@aol.com • Web www.ttms.org
  3. 3. The Writing Strategy Organizer 9 Improve focus and develop a main idea… 10 Find details… 11 Write great fiction... 12 Write a good lead… Main Idea Where Do Details Come From? The 5 Facts of Fiction What Makes a Good Lead? What is your main idea? “A detail is the answer to a question n Fiction is all about character. Who is the main char- What’s the best way to start a piece of writing? No one re- What’s the one most important thing you want your a reader might have.” acter? Can you describe his or her personaly? How did ally knows. Each piece of writing is different because writ- your character get to be this way? The more you know ers have different ways of introducing themselves to their audience to know? about your characters (especially about why they do the 5Ws+H 5 Senses readers. Every writer must consider his or her audience, It’s like this... things they do), the better your story will be. and try to decide what few words will be most likely to keep Imagine taking an entire piece and scrunching it down into Who? • What? • When? See? • Hear? • Touch? the reader reading. In general, good leads: a single sentence that still said more or less the same Where? • Why? • How? Smell? • Taste? o Fiction is all about what your character wants. thing. That’s kind of what a main idea is. Most pieces,are What one thing does your character want more than any- Get right to the point. There’s no rule about how short Spend more time answering the Spend most of your time thinking built on a single thought. That thought is the main idea and “Why” and “How” questions. The about what you want readers to thing esle in the world? Why does your character want it? a lead needs to be. In most cases, however, the lead is everything else in the piece is there to help the audience answers almost always produce “see.” Make use of the other The more important something is to someone, the more he contained in the first one or two sentences. Remember, you understand it. The simplest way to think about the main the most interesting details. senses only rarely. or she will do to get it. don’t have much time to hook your reader. idea of a piece is to think of it as the one most important thing you want the audience to know. If you had to write Action p Fiction is all about how your character gets or Have immediate impact. Some leads are funny, some just one sentence to represent everything you wanted to First,… does not get what he or she wants. Is your character are surprising, some are just plain weird. But good leads say, that would be the main idea. Then,… successful? Or does your character’s quest end in failure? make the reader feel some emotion right away. Next,… etc… What obstacles does you characterter encounter? Is your main idea: For more details, break the action down into smaller “events.” Plan Hint at the topic. You don’t want to give away your
  4. 4. A complete thought; a complete sentence? out the sequence of events using Transition-Action-Details. q Fiction is all about how your character changes. whole idea, you want to save some of the best stuff for lat-
  5. 5. Something that is important to you? How does your character change as a result of what hap- er. But you have to give the reader something. Feelings Attributes Setting pens? How is your character at the beginning? At the end?
  6. 6. Something that is important to the audience? What does your character learn? Every “who” in your Every person, place, Every setting can be Promise the reader a good experience. A reader has (A good main idea has all three of these qualities.) piece has feelings. or thing in your story described in great to make a big investment of time to read your writing. What YOUR feelings will r Fiction is all about a world that you create. What would make someone want to spend an afternoon reading has attributes: detail. Readers like it Something to think about. usually be the most shape, size, color, when the writer kinds of people, places, and things does the world of this your work instead of doing something else? The main idea is probably the most important thing about important. Strong anything you can “sets” the scene. story contain? What successes, disasters, and conflicts a piece of writing. If you make sure you have a good main feelings make for a think of to describe Don’t forget to in- arise in this world? Complete this sentence: “This is a world Make the reader want to read on. If a lead doesn’t idea, and that the details in your piece support it, you’re strong piece. anything in your clude a back story where…”. piece. detail. make the reader want to continue reading, then what almost guaranteed to have a successful piece. comes after the lead will never get read. n Main character o Motivation p Plot q Main idea r Setting 13 Draft effectively… 14 Know when you’re finished… 15 Make sure you have a good idea… 16 Write a good ending… Diligent Drafting When Are You Finished? Do You Have a Good Idea? What Makes a Good Ending? Write on every other line. After reading the beginning... Is your idea… Endings are tough, no doubt about it. And what seems like Skip a line between lines. It’s so much easier to make
  7. 7. Will my readers know what my paper is about? a good ending to some people can be a real let-down for changes during revision when you have all that space to
  8. 8. Will my readers think my piece is going to be fun to
  9. 9. Something you have strong feelings about? others. And yet, endings are important. After all, the ending write between lines. And besides, it’ll make you feel like read? What are those feelings? How will you communicate is the last thing your audience will read, so it’ll probably be you’re getting twice as many pages written. those feelings to your reader? Is there a key moment something they’ll remember. Here are some ideas for things
  10. 10. Will my readers want to find out more? or a particularly important detail you want to you can try: Number, date, and save everything. emphasize so your reader will understand exactly how With all those pages, you’ll need to keep them in order. You After reading the middle... you feel? Your main idea. One way to make sure you audience should also put the date on each page. When you go back
  11. 11. Will my readers think I included enough details to help doesn’t miss your message is to put it right at the end. over previous drafts those dates could make the difference them understand my main idea?
  12. 12. Something you know a lot about? What are the between being finished and being confused. And save
  13. 13. Will my readers have enough information so that they main things you want to cover? What’s the most How the piece might affect the reader’s life. This everything you write—at least for a while. don’t have a lot of questions? important part of your piece? What’s the one thing kind of ending can help you get the reader’s attention.
  14. 14. Will my readers think I included just the right amount of you want your audience to know about your topic? Write on one side of the paper only. information? A recommendation or some advice. Everyone loves This makes it easier to keep track of pieces that span
  15. 15. Something you can describe in great detail? good advice. Of course, everyone hates bad advice. And many pages. It also allows you to cut your writing into What are some of the details of your topic? Why are some people don’t like getting any advice at all. But I still pieces if you need to move things around. After reading the ending... these details important? How do these details help the think this is a great way to end a piece.
  16. 16. Will my readers understand the one most important reader understand your message? If you get stuck… thing I wanted them to know? Your purpose. Telling the reader why you took the trouble Every writer gets writer’s block. Here are four smart things
  17. 17. Will my piece feel finished and give my readers
  18. 18. Something your audience will be interested to write it might help them feel good about why they took you can do about it: something to think about? in? Who is your audience? Why will they be interested the trouble to read it. • Go back to your pre-writing and look for new material. Or, do
  19. 19. Will my readers feel that they had fun or that they in your topic? What will interest them most? some new pre-writing. learned something new? How you feel about the piece. Sometimes, a thoughtful • Share your writing and ask your audience if they have any
  20. 20. Something your audience will feel was worth reflection makes the perfect ending. questions or any thoughts about what you could write next. How long should my piece be? reading? What will your audience get from reading • Read your piece from the beginning. New ideas often occur to Your piece should be long enough to express your ideas in your piece? Will your audience learn something new? writers when they read over their entire piece. such a way that all your reader’s questions are answered— What will make your audience want to follow your piece Thanks to Mrs. Goffe’s 3rd graders at Sunrise Elementary • Put the piece aside and work on another piece for a while. and not one word longer! all the way to the end? School for giving me these great ideas about endings. © 1995-2003 by Steve Peha. For more information, or for additional teaching materials, please contact: Teaching That Makes Sense, Inc. • E-mail stevepeha@aol.com • Web www.ttms.org
  21. 21. Goodthese qualities… Has all of Writing 9 Ideas that are interesting andIdea Details ”Showing” Purpose Surprises Main important. 9 9 9 9 9 9 Organization that is logical and effective. 9Leads 9Endings 9Sequencing 9Pacing 9Transitions 9 Voice that is individual and appropriate. 9Topic 9Feelings 9Individuality 9Personality 9Appropriateness 9 Word Choice that is specific and memorable. 9Verbs 9Modifiers 9Memorable 9Accurate 9Appropriate 9 Sentence Fluency that isBeginnings Length and expressive. smooth Expression Effects Structure 9 9 9 9 9 9 Conventions that are correct Capitalization Paragraphing Spelling Grammar Punctuation 9 and communicative. 9 9 9 9 © Copyright 1996-2003 by Steve Peha. For more handouts like this one and other great teaching materials, please contact: Teaching That Makes Sense, Inc. • E-mail stevepeha@aol.com • Web www.ttms.org
  22. 22. The “What is Good Writing?” Organizer For Maturing Writers IDEAS ORGANIZATION VOICE 4 An important main idea. What’s the one most important thing 4 Catches the audience’s attention at the start; makes 4 The author cares about the topic. How can you tell that the the author wants the audience to know? Why is it important to the them want to read more. How does the beginning catch the author cares about the topic? Where can you find evidence of author? Why is it important to the audience? audience’s attention? Why would the audience want to read more? strong opinions? 4 Interesting details. Which details are the most interesting? 4 Feels finished at the end; makes the audience think. How 4 Strong feelings; honest statements. Where are the author’s How do they help the audience understand the main idea? does the ending make the piece feel finished? What does it make strongest statements? How can you tell that the author is saying the audience think about? what he or she really thinks? 4 “Showing,” not just telling. Where does the author use “showing” details? How does the “showing” help to improve the 4 Parts arranged in the best order. Can you easily identify the 4 Individual, authentic, and original. Does this writing feel as audience’s understanding? different parts of the piece? Does each part follow logically from though it could only have been written by one person? Does the writing the next? Is the sequencing effective and entertaining? sound like it was written by a real person? How original is it? 4 A clear and meaningful purpose. Why did the writer write this? Why is this a good reason to write something? What does the 4 Spends the right amount of time on each part. Why does 4 Displays a definite and well developed personality. How author want the audience to think and/or do? the author spend more time in some parts than in others? Are would you describe the author’s personality in this writing? What there places where the author moves ahead too quickly or hangs examples from the text tell you you’re right? 4 Something surprising or unusual that works. What is sur- on too long? prising or unusual about the writing? How does this differ from 4 Appropriate tone for purpose and audience. Is the writer other things you’ve read? 4 Easy to follow from part to part. How does the author move using an appropriate tone for this situation? How can you tell? from part to part? How do these transitions work? Which parts, if any, seem inappropriate? WORD CHOICE SENTENCE FLUENCY CONVENTIONS 4 Strong verbs that tell how actions are performed. Where 4 Variety in sentence beginnings. What are some of the differ- 4 “Outside” punctuation. Has the author used periods, question has the author used strong verbs? What makes them effective? ent ways the author begins sentences? Do you notice any pat- marks, and exclamation marks in ways that make sense to the au- terns? Does the author ever begin two or three consecutive sen- dience? Is it easy to tell where ideas end and begin? 4 Adjectives and adverbs that make things more specific. tences in the same way? Where has the author used adjectives and adverbs to make the 4 “Inside” punctuation. Does the author’s use of commas, co- writing more specific? How does using these adjectives and ad- 4 Variety in sentence length and structure. Does the author lons, dashes, parentheses, and semicolons make sense to the au- verbs improve the reader’s understanding? vary the length and structure of his or her sentences? Do you no- dience? How does the author’s use of these marks help make sen- tice any patterns? Does the author use the same length or struc- tences with many parts easier to understand? 4 Words and phrases you can remember long after you’ve ture in two or three consecutive sentences? What sentence struc- finished reading. Which words and phrases do you remember? tures does the author use most often? 4 Capitalization. Has the author used capital letters in ways that Why are they so memorable? make sense to the audience? Is it easy to tell where new ideas be- 4 Easy to read expressively; sounds great when read gin? Has the author capitalized the word “I”, as well as names, 4 Words and phrases used accurately and effectively. Is the aloud. What are the most expressive parts? What is it about how places, and things that are one of a kind? writer’s usage accurate? Are there any improvement or correc- they sound that makes them so much fun to read out loud? tions you would suggest? Where has the author used unusual 4 Paragraphing. Has the author grouped related sentences into 4 Uses rhythm, rhyme, alliteration, and other “sound” ef- words effectively? Where has the author used common words in paragraphs in ways that make sense to the audience? Has the au- fects. Where has the author used rhythm, rhyme, alliteration or new ways? thor started a new paragraph each time a new person starts other effects to make the writing sound interesting? How does this speaking? Has the author indented or skipped a line to show 4 Language that is appropriate to purpose and audience. Are improve the piece? where new paragraphs start? the words the author has used appropriate for the writer’s purpose and 4 Sentences are structured so they’re easy to understand. audience? Are there any words or phrases that are too casual, too 4 Spelling. If the writing has spelling mistakes, do these errors How does the author use connecting words and punctuation make the piece difficult to read and understand? How does the formal, too hard to understand, or possibly offensive? marks to make sentences easy to understand? How does the or- author’s spelling affect the way the audience feels about the writ- der of sentence parts make the writing easy to understand? ing and the person who wrote it? © Copyright 1997-2003 by Steve Peha. For more information, or for additional teaching materials, please contact: Teaching That Makes Sense, Inc. • E-mail stevepeha@aol.com • Web www.ttms.org
  23. 23. 3 What is Good Writing? You know it when you see it. It isn’t that hard to tell whether a piece of writing is good or bad. You just have to read it. But things get more challenging if you have to explain why. Even harder than that is analyzing the good things a writer is doing so you can learn to use his or her techniques in your own work. Having simple phrases to describe the good things writers do makes learning about those things easier. Good writing has: • Ideas that are interesting and important. Ideas are the heart of your piece — what you’re writing about and the information you choose to write about it. • Organization that is logical and effective. Organization refers to the order of your ideas and the way you move from one idea to the next. • Voice that is individual and appropriate. Voice is how your writing feels to someone when they read it. Is it formal or casual? Is it friendly and inviting or reserved and standoffish? Voice is the expres- sion of your individual personality through words. • Word Choice that is specific and memorable. Good writing uses just the right words to say just the right things. • Sentence Fluency that is smooth and expressive. Fluent sentences are easy to understand and fun to read with expression. • Conventions that are correct and communicative. Conven- tions are the ways we all agree to use punctuation, spelling, grammar, and other things that make writing consistent and easy to read. Really great writing has all of these things in it. By studying the writing of others, you can learn how to get them into your own. © 1995-2002 by Steve Peha. For more information, or for additional teaching materials, please contact: Teaching That Makes Sense, Inc. • E-mail stevepeha@aol.com • Web www.ttms.org
  24. 24. 4 One Pretty Good Piece of Writing What does a good piece of writing look like? It’s hard to make something if you don’t know what it looks like. That’s why it’s so valuable to look at models of good writing produced by other writers just like you. On this page, you’ll find one short piece of writing. When I’m trying to learn about good writing, I like to work with short pieces, instead of big long novels, because it’s easier to see how all the different parts work together. CHORES! Chores! Chores! Chores! Chores are boring! Scrubbing toilets, cleaning sinks, and washing bathtubs take up a lot of my time and are not fun at all. Toilets! When you’re scrubbing toilets make sure they are not stinky. I’ve scrubbed one before and I was lucky it didn’t stink. I think toilets are one of the hardest things to scrub in the bathroom because it is hard to get up around the rim. Sinks are one of the easiest things to clean in the bathroom because they have no rims and they are small. I have cleaned one before and it was pretty easy. Bathtubs, ever washed one? They are big, they are deep, and it is hard to get up around the sides. The bathtub is the hardest, I think, to wash in the bathroom. All chores are boring, especially making my bed. Cleaning my room is OK because I have to organize, and I like organizing. Dusting is the worst: dust, set down, pick up, dust, set down. There are so many things to dust, and it’s no fun. Chores aren’t the worst but they’re definitely not the best! Well, what do you think? Not too bad, eh? I’ll admit that this isn’t the best piece of writing I’ve ever seen. But I think it’s pretty good. It was written by a third grader and I think she did a solid job of getting her point across about her struggles with the challenges of household chores. It made sense to me and I could relate to it. Some parts were even kind of funny. © 1995-2002 by Steve Peha. For more information, or for additional teaching materials, please contact: Teaching That Makes Sense, Inc. • E-mail stevepeha@aol.com • Web www.ttms.org
  25. 25. 10 What’s a Good Idea? Some ideas are better than others. Just because it’s on a list you made doesn’t mean it’s necessarily great thing to write about. Sometimes you may want to consider things a bit more care- fully before you start writing. To help you with that, I’ve come up with a series of questions you can ask yourself about any topic you choose. How you answer these questions may help you discover that some of your topics are better than others. Is the topic something you have strong feelings about? How much writers care about their topic is probably the strongest predictor of success with the finished piece. Your feelings about the topic affect your writing in three ways: (1) The amount of effort of you put in will be greater if you care about your topic, and this extra effort will probably lead you to produce better work. (2) Your voice will be stronger if you care about the topic. Voice is the personal quality in a piece of writing, it’s how your personality shapes the piece in ways that make it different from any- one else’s. It’s also the aspect of your writing that will be most interesting to the majority of your readers. (3) You’ll have a lot more fun writing a piece if you care about the topic. The work will go faster and be more enjoyable. Is the topic something you know a lot about? Writing is really two activities wrapped up into one. The first activity involves coming up with the ideas you plan to write about. The sec- ond involves writing those ideas down in ways that are interesting and understandable to your read- ers. The simple truth is that you can’t do the second. if you haven’t figured out the first. If you don’t know a lot about your topic, you have two choices: (1) You can do some research and learn more about it. Or (2) you can pick something different to work on that you know more about. Is the topic something you can describe in great detail? Details are the heart of any good piece of writing. Details are also what make your writing different from anyone else’s. With- out good details, most pieces are boring. Part of knowing a lot about your topic is knowing the little things about it that your readers probably don’t know. Is the topic something your audience will be interested in? Before you can answer this question, you have to know who you’re writing for. In school, your audience usually consists of the other students in your class plus the teacher. But often we write for wider audiences, too. In ei- ther case, you have to know who your audience is and why they might be interested in the topic you’ve chosen to write about. Is the topic something your audience will feel was worth reading? Your readers have to expend time and effort to read your writing. What do you have to say to them about your topic that will keep them reading all the way to the end, and make them feel like they got their money’s worth when they get there? © 1995-2003 by Steve Peha. For more information, or additional teaching materials, please contact: Teaching That Makes Sense, Inc. • E-mail stevepeha@ttms.org • Web www.ttms.org
  26. 26. 11 Do You Have a Good Idea? What are those feelings? How will you communicate them to your reader? Is there an important FEELINGS detail you want to emphasize so your reader will understand exactly how you feel? What are the main things you want to cover? What’s the most important part of your piece? KNOWLEDGE What’s the one most important thing you want your audience to know about your topic? What are some of the important details of your topic? Why are these details important? How do these DETAILS details help the reader understand your message? Who is your audience? Why will they be interested in your topic? What will interest them most? INTEREST What does your audience need to know to understand and enjoy your piece? What will your audience get from reading your piece? Will your audience learn something new? What will make VALUE your audience want to follow your piece all the way to the end? © 1995-2003 by Steve Peha. For more information, or additional teaching materials, please contact: Teaching That Makes Sense, Inc. • E-mail stevepeha@ttms.org • Web www.ttms.org