For example, I can tell students that I want them to use a chart and an illustration in their history writing, but if the chart and the illustration isn’t highlighting or featuring the most important content, then why would they include that?
I think the biggest DUH (or, more kindly put, “a-ha!”) moments I’m having while writing this writing book is that we force kids into using certain things in their writing (text features and such) and we teach them to TOTALLY IGNORE what they’re writing about!
The topic that they’re writing about and what they have to say about that topic should drive ALL of their decisions about how they write it.
So, instead of saying, “I want you to write an essay about dolphins [or insert your topic of choice] using six bolded vocabulary words, two charts and a graph that shows the influx of sick dolphins in San Diego Bay from 2007- to present,” what I should really be saying to my students, “I am going to teach you how to analyze the information you have about dolphins so that you can increase the odds through your writing that the reader will actually really grasp what you want them to learn.”
Unfortunately, we’ll have to add this to the list of things that I’ll have to go back and apologize for to my former students…I didn’t get it then.
Or…really until today.