Chapter 3- Making Meaning with Ideas


Book Titles for Teaching Ideas:

Animal Farm- George Orwell

The Book Thief- Markus Zusak

Charlotte’s Webb- E.B. White


Lesson and Strategies for Teaching Ideas

1. Model Topic Choice

Share topics that are relevant to you (the teacher) and why they are relevant. This will aid students to discover which topics they feel comfortable writing about or even just have knowledge about. Explain to students why those topics are valuable writing topics- you know details about the topic. If you know several details about a topic it makes a composition more interesting because you are able to interest your reader by drawing a picture in their mind of what you are writing about.

2. Notice the Little Things

A lesson to show how many details you can write about would be to have students chose a simple topic such as a plant, tree, the view out the window, their shoes and write all the details they can think of regarding the five senses. Have students fill in a chart similar to the one below to demonstrate how many details their are for this small topic and relate it to the details that they could provide in their writing.

3.Model Revising for Detail

Edit work with students either individually or as a class. Prepare a piece of writing with enough space in between each line for editing work. As a class go through each line of the composition to assess the amount of detail written. Students should offer suggestions of what can be added or removed to increase the ideas meaning and to create a better picture for the readers. As you read the composition have students question statements made in the composition and see if they are answered by the end of the piece, if not details need to be added to aid the readers.

4. Keep the Message Small and Focused

Assist students in narrowing their topic in order to write a valuable piece about a small topic instead of broad statements about a large topic.

5. Choose Details That Matter

Writers need to include details that not all people would regularly know. It is more interesting to learn new details about a topic while reading. If one already knows all the information in an article, they are seldom read. Aid students in researching their topics so the right details can be added to their compositions. Students should be given a chance to read an article about a topic that they are confident about and have a lot of prior knowledge about and have to compare it to a composition about the same topic that includes details that are new and interesting.

6. Put Your Senses to Work

A lesson to show how many details you can write about would be to have students chose a simple topic such as a plant, tree, the view out the window, their shoes and write all the details they can think of regarding the five senses. Have students fill in a chart similar to the one below to demonstrate how many details their are for this small topic and relate it to the details that they could provide in their writing.

Picture 4

7. Revise Fuzzy Writing

Fuzzy being unclear and not-to-the-point writing. It is helpful for students to realise the fuzzy sentences in their writing since they may not be aware that they have sentences that are fuzzy.

8. Put It to the Test

After students write a informational composition about a chosen topic have students write a short multiple choice test from information in their piece. If they are able to compose a quiz based on their compositions then they are probably filled with valuable information. If they are not able to, their informational composition may need more details for the readers interest.

9. Help Students Collect Information

If a students writing lacks detail, it is valuable to aid students in researching their topics to add valuable information. New information that they may have not known before. As stated above, it interests readers to learn new facts while reading a piece of writing.  Allow students to use multiple resources such as, books, the web, and movies to explore their topics at a greater depth.

10.  Begin With What is Tangible

Students who struggle to find topics to write about can be aided by the following lesson. Ask students to bring in an object that means a lot to them. Have the students create a composition based on the feelings and emotions for the object, not necessarily the object itself. By having a visual reference it may aid writers to be inspired about their topic.

11. Take 10

Have students chose a topic. Allow ten minutes for the students to write everything they can think of about the topic. Ensure students write on every other line to allow room for the follow-up. After the ten minutes is complete have the students read their one liners about the topic and add detail where they can. This would also be a good time for students to further research their topic on the points that they had trouble expanding upon.

12. Do Dome Formative Assessment

Ensure that students are marked throughout the writing process, not just the final completed project. Ensure that you have seen their topic choice, research materials, revised copy and final copy. This will allow the teacher to see how much work a student put into their writing through the writing process. This allows teachers to see the progress made by each student. If a student is a good writer and completes a rough draft that is acceptable and then doesn’t change anything between then and the final copy, they have not completed the writing process even if their product is good. It is important to value the work put in by students during the writing process-not just the end result.

13. Summarize

Have students summarize a piece of writing to grasp the main concept of the writing. Have students share what they thought the main topic was and what detail support their thoughts. This also a good concept to learn since it is applicable to every writing subject. This would be a good topic to chose to do cross-curricular with.


It is important to explore ideas in writing with students in order for them to develop the ability to transfer them into their writing. Students should be reminded that they write better about topics that they know a lot about and topics they are interested in. Students should be given an opportunity to jot down a list of ideas that they are confident writing about. This way, if ever searching for ideas to write about they can turn to their list and chose a topic they are able to write about right away. It is also important to help students learn to turn their words into pictures in the reader’s mind. Adding appropriate details to your ideas where needed to expand the visual image created by the writing.

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