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March 26, 2010

Dear Literacy Place for the Early Years Teacher,

This week's question comes from an LPEY session on writing. In this session teachers wanted to know: How do I improve my students' writing of literature responses?

The writing of literature responses has become a 'hot topic' across Canada as teachers search for ways to improve student achievement on classroom reading tasks and on provincial assessments. LPEY includes some very useful tools and tips with regard to written literature responses.

Tip #1—Modelled Writing
The most important step you can take to improve students' writing is to model what a good response would look like through Modelled and Shared Writing. Responses may include tasks such as retelling of events, writing opinions, making connections, stating predictions, or creating character sketches or summaries of ideas . Students may use approaches such as sticky-note responses, bookmarks, fact summaries, story boxes or journals. Make sure you choose a response that fits the needs of your students and then demonstrate how to use the approach. Once students are comfortable using one approach, add another. Have students create responses to Read Aloud, Shared Reading, Guided Reading and then Independent Reading texts.

Tip #2—Frameworks/Graphic Organizers
There are several graphic organizers included in your Writing Guide that may prove helpful in providing the organizational framework necessary for many students. In the 'Written Literature Responses' section you will find a description outlining how and when to use each organizer. The BLM version of each organizer can be found near the back of the Writing Guide.

Tip #3—Sentence Starters
Included in your Writing Guide are a number of suggestions for literature response sentence starters for both fiction and non-fiction. These starters have been designed to focus on comprehension strategies and help to direct students' thinking as they begin their response. You will see that the starters have been integrated into the LPEY teaching plans, but you can also use them to create your own response. You might, for example, provide students with a selection of sentence starters to focus on the comprehension strategy Evaluating. After you model how to respond using the sentence starters and a Read Aloud text, each student can choose a starter, talk about ideas with a partner, and then use the starter to write a literature response.

Happy teaching,
Sue Jackson signature
Sue Jackson
National Literacy Consultant
Scholastic Education Canada