Nonfiction Writing–WOWstyle

Hey WOWsers, welcome to my blog.

I’m happy to say that, thanks to my fellow RCWP colleague Jennifer O’Brien, I helped deliver a workshop yesterday that was okay.  The focus was on nonfiction writing, and I made a commitment to share my materials online–so here they are!

    First, I slapped together an assignment on TrackStar to help my students learn about endangered species.  We didn’t get to this during WOW, but I thought you might want to check out the site.  You can do a simplified version of a webquest here in pretty quick order. 

     Next, I created a Googlepage with links to websites with information on the endangered species I want my students to research in small groups.  All I needed for this was my Google email account, and it took about 10 minutes to build (no joke).

    One of my issues is having kids out in cyberspace using gigantic search engines that spit out sooooo many links.  So, I used Pageflakes and pulled together some of my favorite kid-friendly search engines–Askforkids,, Google SafeSearch, and Yahooligans–into a pagecast so that kids can search all the sites from one page or click into any of those search engines when it is time for them to move away from the links I’ve already selected.  That’s a page I can use for any project in which students are doing web searches, so it’ll pay off for many projects to come.

    Once the tech was out of the way, I put together a couple of fact-gathering sheets to help guide the small-group research.  I made a K-2 version and a 3-5 version using Google Docs (just to be extra nerdy). 

    Okay, really there’s more tech–I went to and pulled video segments on each of the animals in the research project and burned a CD for each animal.  I so love

     Here’s how I generally visualize this unit flowing.  We start out a TWL (Think, Wonder, Learn) chart with the T and the W on endangered species.  Then we work in small groups on the TrackStar activity so students can get acquainted with key vocabulary (endangered, threatened, extinct, species, etc.).  Maybe throw in some video on endangered species.  Groups get assigned their animal and take a look-see at the fact gathering sheet, adding any questions they have about their animal and want to answer.  Then follows the initial research arc using the stations I developed to make the links, search engines, videos, and print text I’ve gathered available to the student groups so they can access and record the information they need and want.  I’ve typed out the station directions on Google Docs as well. 

Oy.  I haven’t even got to the writing part yet.  So I’ll save my general game plan on focus lessons for this unit for an upcoming post.  WOW women, if I missed a piece you wanted to see from the presentation, leave a comment requesting what you’re interested in and I’ll do my best to help with it.


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