Express / Reflect / Inform / Explain – Writing Activities from “Write Like This”

Chapters 2-3: Writing Territories in Depth

Chapters 2 through 7 in Kelly Gallagher’s book Write Like This: Teaching Real-World Writing Through Modeling and Mentoring are organized by the writing territories he outlined in the first chapter.

Each chapter begins with an anecdote or illustration of the writer’s purpose that is the focus of that chapter.  What follows are dozens of writing activities, classroom-friendly and student-tested.

Chapter 2: Express and Reflect

What is “Expressive / Reflective” real-life writing?

“When a student writes her feelings about her parents’ divorce, that’s expressive writing,” Gallagher writes on page 24.  “When she writes about what she has learned from having gone through the ordeal, that’s reflective writing.  The best writing comes when a student blends the two.”

One activity he uses to kick off expressive/reflective writing is the Treasured Object activity.  Students are asked to bring either a cherished object to class or a picture of it, if they’re worried about its safety.  Students write about the object, but more importantly, they “reflect on why these items hold deep meaning for them.”

An introductory expressive/reflective activity he describes is the 6-Word Memoir.

Here are a few student examples Gallagher shares on page 26) :
“My dream is what I’ll be” – Jackie
“Eat. School. Cheerleading. Work. Sleep. Repeat.” – Kiki
“Thinking of six words is hard.” – Dustin

Chapter 3: Inform and Explain

Or … as Gallagher writes in a subheading within the chapter … Moving Past Creating a Peanut Butter Sandwich.   This is, of course, a reference to an old standard in writing instruction … the “how-to make a sandwich” paper.

He begins this unit with his My Favorite Words project, “having each student choose a favorite word and conduct some research.”    This introductory activity sounds like an in-class warm-up activity, one that would be fun to try.  A writing notebook activity.

A more in-depth writing assignment is one he calls How Does _______ Work?   After reading and absorbing excerpts from David Macaulay’s book The Way Things Work as a guiding mentor text,  he and his students brainstorm possible answers to the following sentence: How does _______ work?

The writing assignment?  On page 79 he writes,  “I then require each student to pick one interesting question and go find the answer, citing at least two sources and including at least one visual.”

These are just two of the 18 writing activities he presents in chapter three.   The two I shared from chapter two are two of 23.   This book is packed with good classroom writing assignment ideas.

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