Bright Ideas! Writing Manipulatives?

It’s time once again to link up with the “Bright Ideas” link up, and today’s post is about a great trick I tried with my class this week to try to make those writing lessons really stick!
We are working on realistic fiction and I have taught a number of lessons…”Showing not telling”, infusing dialogue, using action words, and–this week–adding setting details.  As a part of my unit, my students are helping me write a story at the same pace they are going (modeled instruction), and I asked them to help me revisit the text we had written so far and to look for setting details.  I scrolled the text on the Smartboard as I read aloud…here is part of the story.
As I read, I asked the students to keep track on their fingers each time they heard a setting detail or where they could really “see” the setting in their mind.  When they finished,

I sent them off with their writing partner to try the same thing with their story.  To keep track, I gave each team a stick of unifix cubes. Each time they heard a setting detail, they snapped one of their stick and added it to their pile.

When they finished, the partners decided if their pieces had enough setting details–and if they didn’t, they used their “purple pen power” to go back an infuse some more details. The concrete manipulatives forced them to really take stock of the writing and was a great visual to see how well they had applied that skill.  I think there is a lot of potential for using counters or other “idea holders” to represent writing concepts…how many times they see indenting, how many action verbs, how many descriptive phrases, and so on.  Give it a try–the students loved the visual impact!
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