Writing Tips

Write, Illustrate, and Publish: What follows are some websites that can help you publish students’ writing and enlarge students’ audiences by moving beyond school.

SAMPLE LESSON: From Brighten Up Boring Beginnings and Other Quick Writing Lessons by Laura Robb, Scholastic, 1999
Lesson 9: Who’s Talking? Punctuating Dialogue Lets You Know
Download the sample lesson (PDF)

SAMPLE LESSON: From Grammar Lessons & Strategies that Strengthen Students’ Writing by Laura Robb, Teaching Resources, 2001
Lesson 6: Capatalize on Clauses to Brighten Up Sentence Beginnings
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SAMPLE LESSON: From Grammar Lessons & Strategies that Strengthen Students’ Writing by Laura Robb, Teaching Resources, 2001
Lesson 1: Spice Up Sentence Beginnings With Prepositional Phrases
Download the sample lesson (PDF)

SAMPLE LESSON: From Brighten Up Boring Beginnings and Other Quick Writing Lessons by Laura Robb, Scholastic, 1999
Lesson 8: Sharpen the Image with Specific Nouns
Download the sample lesson (PDF)

Mark Twain said: “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.”

The tips that follow can help your students find the right word when the begin revising a draft. Remember, that first drafts can be messy and usually the writer focuses on getting ideas or the story onto paper. It’s during revision that writers can refine and shape their work.

The essayist, Annie Lamotte, pointed out that an engineer has to get the blueprint for a bridge right the first time. Writers, on the other hand, can revise, revise, revise until the piece works.

Outstanding writing has strong verbs and specific nouns with only a few adjectives and adverbs. Another great Mark Twain saying is, “If you see an adjective, kill it.” What Twain meant was that a specific noun can replace a series of adjectives. In addition, a strong verb can make an adverb unnecessary.

REVISING FOR STRONG VERBS

With younger students, you should circle three to four weak verbs such as go, cook, and make. Older students can choose and circle the verbs they want to improve. These verbs are weak because they don’t create an image in the reader’s mind.

  • Organize students into pairs so partners can help one another.
  • Ask students to write, in the margin of their paper, several other verbs that are specific and relate to the context and meaning of the sentence and text. So go might become trudge; cook might transform into poach; and make into compel.
  • Have students choose the best verb from their brainstormed list in the margin and write it above the weak verb.

REVISING FOR SPECIFIC NOUNS

In first drafts, students writers tend to use general nouns such as things, stuff, time, games. These wide-open words create different images in readers minds–images based on readers’ personal experiences.

For example, if i write tree, readers might see an oak, maple, cherry, and all during different seasons. If the writer wants to communicate an exact image, specific nouns help.

Follow the process I suggested for improving verbs, only circle three to four general nouns on students’ work. Once students jot down alternatives, ask them to choose the specific noun that best fits the meaning of the sentence and piece. So, stuff, might become balloons, time might be dawn, and games might be kick-the-can.

Making the revision process very specific helps student writers improve their work and tunes them into professional writers’ craft and revision techniques.