Supports for Writing
It's a process.
At its basic structure, every paper must have a beginning, a middle, and an end. If it does not, then your audience will have trouble following your thought process and your purpose cannot be established.
Remember, as the writer, your job is to hold the reader's hand and walk him or her gently through you ideas. While a detail may be clear to you, you must make sure that it is clear to the reader. This is done with thoughtful organization and specific details.
Handouts for Writers
Beginnings: Hooking the Reader
Where to begin is a crucial decision for a writer. Just as a good beginning can draw a reader into a piece of writing, a mediocre beginning can discourage a reader from reading further. The beginning, also called the lead or the hook, orients the reader to the purpose of the writing by introducing characters or setting (for narrative) or the topic, thesis, or argument (for expository writing). A good beginning also sets up expectations for the purpose, style, and mood of the piece. Good writers know how to hook their readers in the opening sentences and paragraphs by using techniques such as dialogue, flashback, description, inner thoughts, and jumping right into the action.
Body of the Paper
The organization of the middle of a piece of writing depends on the genre. Researchers have identified five basic organizational structures: sequence,description, cause and effect, compare and contrast, and problem and solution.
Sequence uses time, numerical, or spatial order as the organizing structure. Some narrative genres that use a chronological sequence structure are personal narrative genres (memoir, autobiographical incident, autobiography), imaginative story genres (fairytales, folktales, fantasy, science fiction), and realistic fiction genres. Narrative story structures include an initiating event, complicating actions that build to a high point, and a resolution. Many narratives also include the protagonist’s goals and obstacles that must be overcome to achieve those goals.
As early as kindergarten, children can be introduced to basic informational genres that are organized sequentially, including learning structures for writing instructions, experimental recounts and experimental procedures. Older students can learn to use timelines to organize biographies, oral histories, and recounts of current and historical events.
Description is used to describe the characteristic features and events of a specific subject (”My Cat”) or a general category (”Cats”). Descriptive reports may be arranged according to categories of related attributes, moving from general categories of features to specific attributes.
Children’s initial attempts at descriptive reports often are “All About” reports that have little internal organization. Informational alphabet books and riddle bookscan be used to introduce kindergarten children to the writing of descriptive reports through shared or interactive writing. Older children can learn to develop categories of related attributes to organize their reports by using webs, concept maps, and software such as Inspiration and Kidspiration. Expectation outlines (Spiegel, 1981) are another strategy that can help students anticipate the categories of information found in a report.
Cause and Effect structure is used to show causal relationships between events. Cause and effect structures organize more sophisticated narratives as childen become more adept at showing the relationship between events. Young children also can begin to extend opinion essays by giving reasons to support their opinions using the word because. Signal words for cause and effect structures also include if…then, as a result, and therefore.
Comparison and Contrast structure is used to explain how two or more objects, events, or positions in an argument are similar or different. Graphic organizers such as venn diagrams, compare/contrast organizers, and data matrices can be used to compare features across different categories. Primary grade children can begin to use words such as same and different to compare things. Other words used to signal comparison and contrast organizational structures include alike, in contrast, similarities, differences, and on the other hand.
Problem and Solution requires writers to state a problem and come up with a solution. Although problem/solution structures are typically found in informational writing, realistic fiction also often uses a problem/solution structure that children can learn to identify.
"Beyond Happily Ever After"
Anyone who has watched a great movie for ninety minutes only to have it limp to the finish with weak ending knows that strong endings are just as critical to effective writing as strong beginnings. And anyone who has watched the director’s cut of a movie with all the alternate endings knows that even great directors have trouble coming up with satisfying endings for their movies. Just like directors, writers have to decide how to wrap up the action in their stories, resolving the conflict and tying up loose ends in a way that will leave their audience satisfied. Student writers struggle with writing strong endings, often relying on the weak “I had a lot of fun” summation or the classic “It was just a dream” ending to rescue them from their stories.
The type of ending an author chooses depends on his or her purpose. When the purpose is to entertain, endings may be happy or tragic, or a surprise ending may provide a twist. Endings can be circular, looping back to the beginning so readers end where they began, or they can leave the reader hanging, wishing for more. Endings can be deliberately ambiguous or ironic, designed to make the reader think, or they can explicitly state the moral of the story, telling the reader what to think. Strong endings for expository texts can summarize the highlights, restate the main points, or end with a final zinger statement to drive home the main point to the audience.