Often times when I’m teaching my students how to write a multi-paragraph essay, I find that they can get repetitive when adding their details to their body paragraphs. They also write short, simple sentences that do not provide much detail and therefore are not that interesting. My favorite way to teach students to add supporting details to their paragraphs is by facilitating a collaborative activity called an “Author’s Talk.” Students partner up, visit sentences posted around the room, and discuss each sentence in detail. They then record their conversation in bullet points on a shared poster.
Prep for an Author’s Talk:
In order to do an Author’s Talk, students must first generate topic sentences for each body paragraph. If they are writing an informational essay about something, their topic sentences for each body paragraph can be specific facts. If they are responding to text, their topic sentences can be an example of text evidence or a quote from the text. In our case, my students are writing an opinion essay in which they argue if the Big Bad Wolf is innocent or guilty. Their topic sentences are various reasons from the text that they are using to support their opinion.
Once the different reasons were shared, I wrote each one on a sentence strip. I then posted them around the classroom with a blank poster underneath each strip.
During the Author’s Talk:
My students then grabbed a writing utensil and partnered up. They visited their first reason and started talking about it. For example, one of the reasons was “[The wolf] just had a cold.” I overheard the students talking about how he sneezed and the homes fell down as a result because they were built from flimsy materials. These comments were then written onto the poster board with bullet points.
Here is a student example for another sentence that was posted:
After the Author’s Talk:
Once students visit all the sentences posted around the room and record notes from their conversations, it is time to begin drafting their paragraphs. Most of the time, their ideas start flowing and students begin drafting without writer’s block. Sometimes, they may forget some of the details, so they have the option to look at the different posters and refresh their memories by reading through the bullet points written by their classmates.
This is a fun way to get the kids out of their seats and working with one another as they talk about writing. It’s not only a great way to facilitate collaborative talk, but a way to inspire students to write without running into any blocks. I have found that my students’ details in their writing are more concise and less repetitive. To learn more about my opinion writing unit for The Three Little Pigs vs. Mr. A. Wolf, which incorporates an Author’s Talk, click here.