This post was provided by Elaine Soos as we were discussing Idea development in my online class Teaching and Assessing Writing with the 6-Traits. ~ Dennis
I also liked Spandel's suggestion (p. 213) to ask "wordy" students to summarize their message, to help them focus. When I have asked students who write too long or too much to state their main idea in one sentence verbally and then to do it in writing using a "condensed, no-words-wasted" approach (Spandel p. 213), I've usually found they "find" their main idea and are better able to write to it. I can't wait to get my hands on Geoffrey Kloske's "Once Upon a Time, the End (Asleep in 60 Seconds)" suggested by Spandel, who says that once students hear/read a few examples of these crazy summaries of popular fairy tales, they will better understand the idea of narrowing and focusing their own writing.
Then there are the students who write too long, but not because they have too much to say. Students who just "pad" their writing, repeat words, etc., to make their compositions longer suffer from not having enough to write about, often because they have not done enough research (or don't have enough knowledge of the topic from personal experience). I enjoyed learning about two creative and fun ways to help students learn to include rich details in their writing:
- writing a "how to poem ... to explore any concept, term or person" (Spandel, p. 172) - e.g., "how to be Hestor Prynne, ... Nurse Ratchet... a democracy," etc.
- putting their writing "to the test"(p. 175) -- having students write a multiple-choice quiz based on their writing, to see if it has enough "detail-rich information -- enough for several questions."
Elaine from Ohio