Teach Your Student Writers How to Add Details

The Big Book of Details: 46 Moves for Teaching Writers to Elaborate
By Rozlyn Linder
(Heinemann, 2016 – Learn more)

wisneski 7 14 110Reviewed by Sandy Wisneski

Guilty as charged. “Add more detail.” How many times have I written this on a student’s paper and expected them to just add more details, elaborate and improve their writing?

Details are also an essential component throughout the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The problem is, most teachers are not sure how to model and guide students through this aspect of the writing process. Rozlyn Linder, however, offers a solution with strategies, mentor texts and anchor charts in The Big Book of Details.

big book of details wisneskiAt first glance, the book welcomes the reader with color coordinated chapters, emphasizing different aspects of writing details. Categories include:

  1. Describe: for people, places, and things
  2. Dance: for showing action and sequencing events
  3. Convince: for questions, persuasion, and arguments
  4. Inform: for defining, comparing, and clarifying
  5. Speak: for conversation and speech.

Each of the chapters follows a similar format that scaffolds the process for teachers. Linder describes the various writing techniques as “moves.” (She talks about this in a short video.)

All of the 46 “moves” in the book were developed through Linder’s own experiences in the classroom. Moves are named in a way that students will remember and connect such as “sweet and sour,” “repeaters,” and “zoom in.”

One “move” example – “Just Like That” – details making comparisons. The “move” includes real author examples so students know what this looks like in writing, along with reasons for using the strategy. An introductory activity describes spreading several objects on a table and asking students to think about one of the objects that they are most like. Students then write down the name of the object they have selected and one or two reasons they are similar to that object. Examples of student ideas are written on a chart to be used later as a point of comparison. The strategy continues with an extensive list of guided writing practice ideas.

The writing lessons in this book are organized to quickly unpack the detail, explain when and why the strategy works well, share how I have taught it to my students in a way that emphasizes its effect on meaning in their writing, and offer ways to practice with your students and make these your own.”

In this quote, Rozlyn Linder sums up what I was thinking as I read through the book. Each lesson can be quickly implemented by busy teachers around the world as they grab a helpful tool from this practical writing kit. Lessons are complete from engaging introduction activities to real-world text examples.

Anchor charts are interspersed throughout the book, offering invaluable visuals with each strategy. (FYI: Rozlyn Linder is the expert on meaningful standards-based charts as evidenced in her earlier book, Chart Sense: Common Sense Charts to Teach 3-8 Informational Text and Literature.)

linder dance chart wisneski

Rozlyn Linder

Rozlyn Linder

The Big Book of Details includes engaging activities for each of the strategy lessons and supports whole-class instruction or one-to-one conferencing. Linder offers an extensive guidebook on how to model writing strategies while breaking them into bite-size pieces for students. Check out a sample chapter and read Smokey Daniels’ foreword. You can also follow Linder on Twitter (@rozlinder) and find other interesting resources at her blog.

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Sandy Wisneski is a lead teacher at Catalyst Charter Middle School in Ripon, WI. She is the district Webmaster, tech mentor, yearbook advisor as well as new teacher mentor. Over the past 40 years she obtained her masters in reading, become certified as a Flat Classroom Teacher, a Graphite Certified Teacher and Certified BrainPOP Educator. The summer of 2014 she attended Honeywell Educators @ Space Academy. She enjoys challenging students to “take ownership” for their learning and to be effective digital citizens in the world.

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