10 — Interactive writing
This sequence continues the learning about persuasive texts and allows students to work in small groups to construct their own persuasive texts. The sequence allows you to differentiate instruction through groupings and allow for peer-to-peer support or teaching.
The sequence uses the Human Impacts in Antarctica page on the Australian Government’s Australian Antarctic Division section of the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities website. Students will use the site to collect factual sentences that they will redraft to make persuasive. Before commencing the activity, ensure the students are familiar with reading and navigating texts online and provide support if necessary.
Interactive writing using the Human Impacts in Antarctica web page
Interactive writing is a highly scaffolded and teacher-directed approach to shared writing. In interactive writing the teacher makes decisions about where students can take over the pen to write parts of the text. Students are invited to ‘share the pen’ at strategic points determined by the teacher so that they can actively participate at their instructional level. This approach supports small heterogeneous groupings, ensuring that students are able to share ideas collaboratively with support offered at point of need.
Activity 1: Crafting a persuasive piece of writing
Introduce the Human Impacts in Antarctica page. Draw the students’ attention to the dot points in the main text that provide information about the human impacts on the environment (harvesting some Antarctic species to the verge of extinction for economic benefit, killing and disturbing other species, contaminating the soils, and discharging sewage to the sea and leaving rubbish, cairns and tracks in even the most remote parts). Write this information on a board or interactive whiteboard and model how a factual statement can be made persuasive and emotive by employing particular language choices and figurative devices. For example:
- The sentence ‘Human impacts include harvesting some Antarctic species to the verge of extinction for economic benefit’ might be changed to ‘The indiscriminate slaughter of Antarctic seals and whales for the economic gain of ruthless traders decimated generations of seal and whale families, to the verge of extinction’. (This includes emotive and figurative language and a reference to those who carried out the ‘slaughter’.)
- The sentence ‘Human impacts include contaminating the soil’ might be rewritten as ‘Members of early expeditions dumped their rubbish around the huts, contaminating the soil and degrading the environment’. (This includes reference to a particular group of people responsible for the actions and emotive language.)
Point out to the students that the overuse of emotive or high modality language can make their texts less effective, so these features need to be carefully considered.
The students return to the text and select a section they would like to work with. They then work individually to reshape the selected sentences while you work with small groups using an interactive approach to writing, to develop their own descriptive sentences related to one of the sentence examples. ACELY1698, ACELY1704, ACELA1797
The students swap their pieces of writing and assess each other’s work, giving descriptive feedback based on:
- the clarity of expression
- the effectiveness of the vocabulary choices.
Based on this feedback, the students will then have the opportunity to improve their sentences and ready them for publishing. Published pieces can be placed on the working wall. ACELY1705
Activity 2: Strategy check
Give pairs of students screen shots of the website pages and ask them to map the pages they went to by numbering them and using arrows. This will allow them to reflect on the reading strategies and decisions they make while reading online texts. Strategies that you may want to explicitly teach, depending on student needs, could include skimming, scanning, and determining the importance of and understanding the role of images as supporting details. The students should also highlight the sub-headings and other navigation tools. ACELA1797
Construct a class chart of useful strategies for reading online texts and providing definitions for each strategy. For example, scanning is used when a reader first finds a resource in order to determine whether it will answer their questions. It involves reading by moving the eyes quickly down the page, seeking specific words and phrases. The students add information about when it is useful to use this strategy and others, along with a definition.
An alternative text that could be used in this sequence is Cat on the Island by Gary Crew and Gillian Warden. This text is about Stephen’s Island in New Zealand and is set in 1894. It is a true story of how one event can change the balance of nature. The text could be made available to students during independent reading sessions as it has similar themes to those of One Small Island.