3. Co-construct Version 1
- Choose a writing topic that is familiar to your students. We’ve had success with topics such as a bathtub, the playground, the view from the window, and the library.
- Divide your writing space into two columns.
- Think about your topic and take no more than a couple of minutes to list in the left column factual details about it.
- Choose a few of the details and list rhyming words alongside them. This step has a dual purpose: It can expand vocabulary as students reach for just the right words, and it can stimulate ideas for where to go next with the text.
- Begin by putting one of the details into a simple sentence and writing it in the right column. No rhymes allowed.
- Continue by adding two more sentences to create a stack of three sentences with NO RHYMES!
- Add a fourth sentence that does rhyme—specifically with the last word in sentence.
- Add another four lines, following the same steps.
- When you’re finished, read aloud your Version 1 with students and celebrate. You have written two quatrains!
4. Have Students Write Their Version 1
- Have students pair up with a writing partner and lead them to choose a topic related to a subject you are studying. Sometimes we write topics on slips of paper and have students draw them from a basket.
- Instruct them to begin by listing factual details about their topic, not opinions, in the left column of their writing space. Have research materials handy.
- Ask students to read items off of their lists occasionally, checking to make sure they are including facts only. There should be no words such as cute, wonderful, terrible, or ugly.
- Ask them to choose a detail and create a cluster of words that rhyme with it, using a rhyming dictionary if necessary. Then have them do it for a couple more details.
- Ask students to begin writing in the right column. Ask them to write down a first line (no rhymes). Then ask for a second line (no rhymes), and finally a third (no rhymes). Stick to the facts. Excitement builds as writers hold back the urge to rhyme. As they write, periodically ask students to read a line or two aloud.
- Ask students to add a fourth and final line that rhymes with the last word of line 2, encouraging them to rearrange lines and/or words if necessary. If your students get stuck, urge them to confer with each other for ideas and to consult a rhyming dictionary to stretch vocabulary.
- Encourage your students to experiment. Be sure they understand that the rhyme should somehow support the text’s meaning, therefore no nonsense rhymes are allowed.
5. Co-construct Version 2
- Project your co-constructed Version 1 and review it to see if you can work in more details—colors, similes, sensory details, and such. Add at least two details, and if necessary, revise lines for rhythm and flow.
- Strengthen verbs. Try to make one change that makes your text jump!
6. Have Students Write Their Version 2
- Challenge your students to clarify their message by adding at least two details and revising the text as necessary.
- Challenge them to strengthen their verbs.
- Encourage repeated read-alouds to determine if the piece is working for them.
- Ask your students to share their work with a classmate other than their writing partner.
- Ask volunteers to share with the whole class.
- Encourage your students to speak for word meaning rather than emphasizing the rhyme. There is an unfortunate tendency when reading rhyming text to heavily accent the rhyming words. Resist! Remind students they are trying to convey an idea. The rhyme may support that idea, but it is not the most important part.
To learn more about how to use writing frameworks in your classroom, you can purchase our book here.
About the authors:
Sara Holbrook is a novelist, poet, and educator with a multitude of books for both teachers and students under her belt, including The Enemy: Detroit, 1954, which won the 2018 Jane Addams Children’s Book Award. She works with Michael Salinger to help K–12 students across the states and around the world develop writing, public speaking, and comprehension strategies.
Michael Salinger is a poet, performer, and advocate of poetry and performance in education. With Sara Holbrook, he co-founded and directs Outspoken Literacy Consulting, an organization that runs programs to help K–12 students develop writing, public speaking, and comprehension strategies.
Stephanie Harvey, president of Stephanie Harvey Consulting, has spent 45 years in education as an elementary and special education teacher and literacy staff developer. She works around the world with educators in schools and districts to implement progressive literacy practices.