Writing Activities

Grades 6-8: Great Graphic Organizers

Use visual tools to help students grasp complex text.

By Kelly Johnson, Diane Lapp, Thomas Devere Wolsey, Karen Wood
  • Grades: 6–8

Vocabulary at Work

Standards Met: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.L.4; L.5; L.6
What You Need:
Frayer Organizer
What It Is: A Frayer organizer helps students examine a concept or vocabulary term. It’s intended to be used as an in-class activity, as students interact with sources and one another.

How To Use It: Before your class reads a text, decide which terms are critical to students’ understanding. In a science chapter, a word like parasite might be a good choice. Record this word in the center of the graphic organizer. Provide students with definitions of the term, or have them consult resources to find their own.

Students should work in pairs or small groups to complete the remainder of the organizer. Provide support as needed. They might use the definition of parasite to record essential characteristics in the top left quadrant. In the top right quadrant, nonessential characteristics refer to qualities that may be present in some parasites but not in others. Students should name examples of parasites in the bottom left quadrant. Note that coming up with non-examples (bottom right quadrant) can be difficult. Tip off students that useful non-examples often share attributes with examples. In the case of our science term, bacteria is a good non-example of a parasite.

Ardent Arguments

Standards Met: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.1; W.4; R.1
What You Need:
Seven-Part Graphic Organizer for Composing an Argument
What It Is: The organizer helps students take a position on an issue, note counter-positions, and craft an argument.

How To Use It: Ask students to take a position on a topic that is relevant to the curriculum. This is part one. In part two, they’ll need to draw information from sources to support their position. In part three, they should use sources to present a counter--perspective. Remind students to consider how their opinions coincide with those of others, differ from them, and change as they investigate an issue.

Next, model for students how to use the seven-part organizer to create an argument, including writing a thesis statement (part four), crafting a hook (part five), reflecting on the issue and position (part six), and writing an essay (part seven). An alternative to part seven is to share the argument verbally or through a multimodal format.

Story Pyramid

Standards Met: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.2; R.3; R.5
What You Need:
Freytag’s Pyramid reproducible
What It Is: Freytag’s Pyramid, first published in 1863, makes the task of summarizing many types of fiction considerably easier for students.

How To Use It: Make sure that students understand the plot structure of a literary text. Model how to fill in each section of the pyramid (exposition, inciting incident, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution). Provide descriptions of each segment. For instance, the exposition is when the author introduces the main characters and setting.

Have students complete a pyramid as they read a short story or novel. The notes they jot down will help them recall and summarize later.

Asking the Right Questions

Standards Met: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.1; R.3; R.10
What You Need:
Text-Dependent Question/Response Organizer
What It Is: Even though readers construct inferences at almost every level (e.g., word level, sentence level), this organizer focuses on inferring across larger blocks of text—at the paragraph, chapter, and whole-text levels.

How To Use It: After reading a text at least one time, ask students to respond to a text-dependent question that requires inferences to be made. To support their analysis, students should reread and return to the text to find specific evidence that builds a chain of indicators to support the inference. Alternatively, the evidence may cause them to adjust their original inference. Students should discuss their responses with partners or in groups, and then compare their responses with those of other groups.


Adapted from Mining Complex Text: Using and Creating Graphic Organizers to Grasp Content and Share New Understandings.

 

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Photo: Maskot/Media Bakery

  • Part of Collection:
  • Subjects:
    Drawing Conclusions and Making Inferences, Summarizing, Vocabulary, Persuasive Writing
  • Skills:
    Making Inferences, Summarizing, Vocabulary, Expository Writing, Persuasive Writing
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