If you’ve read anything I’ve written lately (lie to me and tell me that you’ve read everything and wait at your computer screen and continually refresh it to see my latest blog pop up…), you know that I’m writing a book on how to write. I know. Meta.
If only I really knew what being “meta” meant. But if it’s a good thing, I’m it. Or I do it a lot. You know, being meta. And stuff.
If you’ve come here to learn new ways to simplify teaching, then I think this really might help you. In fact, if you’re anything like me (fairly adept at cluelessly teaching writing to kids – or at least trying to), then this should hit the spot for you.
You know, I’ve read standards, attended training and even filled out rubrics and report cards where I had to fill out whether or not kids could “develop a topic” properly. So, I’m not a complete idiot most of the time, but I knew what it meant to develop a topic. Doesn’t it mean just “go deeper?” Um…like write more? You know, just develop it?
(You can see where my genius level teaching of writing was a real hit in the schools.)
I’m always trying to nail down things that are very up-in-the-air or loosey goosey as my mom would say. And well, ‘developing a topic’ seems about as loosey goosey and up in the air as it gets. I get conceptually that it needs to be done. But the real question is how do I do it?
Well – I think I’ve figured it out. (Yay!!!!!! I can be of use! I can actually teach real kids how to do a real thing that might possibly be useful somewhere in their near future!).
Here’s the definition of what it means to develop a topic: A writer develops a topic by expanding the topic sentence with information including the use of details, definitions, examples, quotes and description.
Alright – so we’re getting somewhere. In order to develop a topic, you have to add things. And not just any things, but things like details, definitions, examples, quotes and descriptions. Got it!
But the next question is how do I know which of those I should add?
Welp – I’ve gotcha covered with that one, too! Here’s what I uncovered about developing the topic by adding specific things to the writing. You’ll see how I’ve shown you when to use that particular developing-a-topic thing and then how you do it, too!
ADD A DETAIL WHEN YOU WANT TO:
- Define themselves as an expert on the topic
- Get the reader’s attention
- Clearly distinguish information from opinion
How to do it:
- For each detail of evidence, explain to readers how or why it supports your overall argument
ADD A DEFINITION WHEN YOU WANT TO:
- Clarify the meaning of an idea or term central to comprehension of the text
- Draw attention to an important term
- Establish reader background and knowledge on a new topic
How to do it:
- Make definition short and use your own words if possible
- Introduce the definitions in the body of the essay, not the introduction
- Do not define every “big word” or advanced vocabulary word used in an essay, only the ones that help the reader better understand what the topic.
ADD A SUMMARY WHEN YOU WANT TO
- Refer to work that supports the facts, arguments and opinions in their current writing
- Provide examples of several points of view on a subject
- Build credibility for specific ideas
How to do it:
- Make sure it is much shorter than the source
- Put the summary in your own words
- Make sure it is objective and matches the overall tone and direction of your thesis.
ADD A QUOTE WHEN YOU WANT TO:
- Reproduce well-written, thoughtful and/or vivid examples that could not be improved upon with additional writing
- Use words in a specialized or unusual way
- Highlight that the speaker or writer is an expert on the subject
- Show that the information comes from a newsworthy person and gives credibility to the topic
How to do it:
- Use the least amount of a quoted passage possible to support your point
- Explain the quote you’ve inserted into the text
ADD A DESCRIPTION WHEN YOU WANT TO:
- Provide a “mental picture” of the topic for the reader
- Relate the topic to things the reader might have knowledge of
- Transport the reader to the site or mindset relating to the topic
How to do it: Write statements or gather pictures that include the senses: sight, sound, smell, touch, taste.