Narrative, Expository/Informative, Argumentative…Oh My!!!By Brenda Baker
The 1939 MGM adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s book turns 75 this year. The Wizard of Oz tells the story of Dorothy, an innocent farm girl whisked out of the safety of her comfortable existence by a twister and into a land one could only imagine. Dorothy’s journey in Oz will take her down a yellow brick road with her little dog and some unusual but earnest friends. Multiple generations of baby boomers (including me) know not only the story, but can repeat selected dialogue as well. “ToTo, I have a feeling we are not in Kansas anymore.” As I thought about Dorothy’s statement of bewilderment, I began to realize that many educators may be feeling these same emotions. College and Career Readiness Standards, 21st – Century Skills, as well as initiatives such as Common Core State Standards (CCSS) have not been present in our educational landscape for a number of years. As a result, writing is now treated as an equal partner with reading and has become the channel that will improve not only composition skills but critical reading skills as well. What can Thinking Maps offer administrators and teachers as they are confronted with these new rigorous curriculum standards?
We believe, with respect to writing, the answer lies in Write from the Beginning and Beyond (WFBB). WFBB is a K-8 comprehensive, systemically structured, writing curriculum designed to assist educators and students develop the knowledge and skills necessary for age-appropriate and domain-specific writing achievement. Each of the domains of writing utilizes a combination of modeling, analytic rubrics, and mini-lessons that focus on the essential elements of effective writing. With our curriculum model, students have consistently demonstrated the ability to produce writing that is more authentic, more engaging, and better organized, while never being flat or monotonous. For me, WFBB is the “Yellow Brick Road” that leads educators on the path to successful writing achievement for our students throughout and beyond the school years.
Most teachers are comfortable assisting their students write a simple personal Narrative that is organized in a chronological sequence of events. They can then take this basic structure into the more erudite narrative organized categorically, often referred to as memoir or thematic writing. WFBB extends this basic model to include the autobiographical incident. Included in this domain will be strategies to elevate students’ ability to think and write more rigorously. Because the narrative domain of writing is what teachers and students are most familiar with, it is a good place to start.
Expository / Informative
It might be helpful to take a moment to reflect on the types of writing that most of us encounter in our daily lives. When we read a newspaper or magazine, study a map or brochure, or even peruse a menu, the authors use expository writing to inform the reader about the topic. In the work place, expository writing is utilized when prospective employees define their skills and abilities as they complete applications. Technical writers employ how to methods to demonstrate the steps involved to accomplish specific tasks, as well as explain why a specific occurrence or change is taking place. While research confirms expository writing is the most natural for students, it often receives minimal attention in the lower grades. When we empower our students to embrace expository writing, we also are developing competent readers of expository text, a skill that will encourage a lifetime of learning.
Argumentative writing is a connected chain of declarations or reasons that support one side of a particular issue about which rational people disagree. When students have mastered Expository to Explain Why, they are ready to begin Argumentative. Under the Argumentative umbrella, each WFBB mode is delivered in order of complexity, sophistication, and critical thinking. Teachers and students then progress to persuasive, problem/solution writing, the evaluative argument, and the formal logical argument. With WFBB, instruction is layered to insure that the students have the opportunity to internalize and build on the information as it is being presented. Each teacher, then, delivers instruction according to the students’ level of writing proficiency within the Argumentative continuum.
We at Thinking Maps firmly believe that all students have the ability to write effectively. The Tin man, the Scarecrow and the Lion needed a bit of “magic” provided by the Wizard of Oz to help them discover their hidden talents. WFBB, in the hands of a skilled educator, can provide the “magic” that will unlock the writing abilities of students and set them on the “Yellow Brick Road” to successful writing. We invite you to come home with WFBB which can be your standalone writing curriculum or can also be used to supplement the strategies you are currently using in your classroom.
So tap those Ruby Red Slippers, and let’s get started, because as Dorothy says, “There’s no place like home!”