Scrabble as an Instructional Tool

April 13th is the official day to celebrate every word-lover’s favorite board game—Scrabble! This beloved game-cabinet staple has been around since the 1930s, but its relevance in the classroom is eternally apparent. Not only Scrabble, but countless other board games and childhood favorites, can also be used to support learning and spur student engagement. Browse the ideas below to see how Scrabble could be incorporated into your own learning environment, whether it be in the classroom or at home.

 

Scrabble:

  • Use the letters as a form of equity sticks or calling sticks. Each student will be assigned a letter. When that letter is drawn, that student is selected to participate, read aloud, share their example, etc. Use the letters to correspond to students’ names. Similarly to calling sticks, if the teacher or another student draws the letter “D,” the next participant/classroom speaker’s name must start with or include the letter “D.”
  • Use the letter pieces to spell sight words for students. They can recreate the sight word from memory when the letters are scrambled up. Conversely, to challenge the strong spellers or provide enrichment, teachers may want to spell a sight word incorrectly and ask the student to remove or swap out the incorrect or misplaced letter.
  • Split students into groups and provide them with a pile of letters. Groups must race to sort the consonants and vowels into two different piles. The first group with everything sorted correctly wins!
  • Provide students with two vowels and three consonants. Then challenge them to see how many words they can spell with their letters by rearranging the squares.
  • For students just learning the alphabet, provide them with several letters and an alphabet reference strip if needed. Ask students to then put the letters in alphabetical order, skipping any letters that are not part of the sequence they were given.
  • Divvy up the letters to small groups of students. Put a photo up on the board to represent a spelling word, like “table,” for example. Then ask students to raise their hands if they think their letter is involved in the spelling of the word. If so, then as students with hands raised to arrange themselves in the correct order to spell that word.
  • Set up a “photo album” of images that contain consonant blends or digraphs that students have been learning about. For each photo, ask students to place the Scrabble squares of the letters that form that digraph or blend. For instance, if the photo depicts a flower, the student would place “f” and “l” on the picture; a stop sign would mean that “s” and “t” should be placed on the image.
  • As an extension activity, or to challenge students with strong phonics skills, provide them with a recorded sound, like “ew.” Then ask them to come up with all of the vowel/consonant combinations that could compose a word with that vowel sound: blue, too, crew, shoe, bruise, two, flu, etc. The key for this activity is that students begin to recognize the different combinations of letters that can make the same or similar sounds.

A Beginner’s Guide to Essay Outlines, Pt. II

For a five paragraph essay, which is what students will most commonly encounter in middle school, the three body paragraphs should adhere to the information/details in the thesis statement. In the previous example, the thesis statement includes three reasons for the increase in recycling efforts over time. These three reasons will make up the three separate body paragraphs.

 

Body Paragraph I: Population
  • Population growth over time
  • Increase in consumption/trash
  • A growing cause for concern; landfills overflowing
Body Paragraph II: New info about health
  • How pollution is impacting health
  • Recycling reduces these concerns
  • Concerns about longevity
Body Paragraph III: New info about environment
  • Data on plastic in oceans
  • Impact on marine life
  • Concern for species longevity

 

Again, the purpose of the outline is to organize the writers’ thoughts, pieces of evidence, direct quotes, and their own interpretations so that the essay is essentially mapped out and organized prior to writing. Just like in the introductory section of the outline, the organizer for the body paragraphs does not need to contain complete sentences either. The bullet points are there to succinctly indicate the support that the writer wishes to refer to in the argumentative essay.

 

Finally, the standard conclusion paragraph, much like the introductory paragraph, does not need to be particularly lengthy, especially for middle school writers. The key is that the conclusion reiterates the writer’s position without exhausting previous points or introducing new information. The details should be familiar and relative enough to tie the essay together. The concluding paragraph will essentially mirror the introduction, but with varying word choice and fresh sentence structures. Again, if the prompt asks students to explain why recycling efforts have seemed to increase over time, this could be a simple outline for a student’s conclusion paragraph.

 

Thesis Statement Reiterate main reasons for increase in recycling…recycling increase because of population growth, health concerns, environmental impact
Specific Statement While recycling efforts have been tried for centuries…
General Statement It is more important now to reduce and conserve

 

The concluding paragraph using the outline above might sound something like this:

 

As stated in the paragraphs above, recycling has increased over time because of the rise in population, the increased worry over health concerns, and the alarming evidence of the detriment to our environment. Although records trace the first evidence of recycling back to ancient Japanese scribes, the efforts are more important now than ever before. With so many ways in which people can reduce by reusing, the push for recycling has no wonder spiked.

 

A Beginner’s Guide to Essay Outlines

Outlining as a prewriting practice is a technique that often gets a lot of pushback, specifically from students. It makes sense that students would look at an outline as a nuisance; it is just one more thing to write on top of the actual essay itself. Truthfully, drafting an outline in preparation for an essay is another step. However, in the very minimal amount of time that an outline will require, students will essentially be saving themselves a lot of time and frustration when it comes time to actually craft the essay.

 

For beginning writers—or what I would consider early middle school-aged writers—an introductory paragraph can be a daunting task. Not knowing where or how to begin is a very real concern for many writers as they sit down to start the intro paragraph. A standard rule of thumb, especially for younger students, is to keep the introductory paragraph fairly succinct and direct. It should include about three sentences that introduce the reader to the subject or topic of discussion.

 

The first sentence should be a general statement, which loosely explains the topic, novel, question, technique, etc. Whatever the prompt is about, the general statement should address that concept or comment on it. The second sentence will be more specific, but still pertain to the content introduced previously in the general statement. A specific statement goes further into how the essay will address this topic or concept. Finally, the last sentence in the introductory paragraph should be the thesis statement—this is the point or claim that the writer is trying to make regarding the prompt or essay question.

 

For example, the boxes below could represent a strong outline for an introductory paragraph where the prompt asks students to explain why recycling efforts have seemed to increase over time.

General Statement Define what it means to recycle
Specific Statement Talk about when recycling efforts first began; what were the first initiatives, what prompted them? (Use class research sites)
Thesis Statement …recycling increase because of population growth, which means more trash; research about pollution and health effects; research about environmental impacts, specifically marine life

 

The point of the outline above is to organize the initial information that the writer wishes to convey. Complete or full sentences are not necessary in the outline; it is merely meant to provide cues for starting the essay, like a roadmap of where the intro paragraph plans to go.

Using this sample outline, a completed introductory paragraph might look like this:

 

Recycling involves the conversion of used materials into new or alternative materials for reuse. Processes to reuse materials and objects have taken place over centuries; however, recycling efforts have now become more important than ever before. Recycling efforts have increased over the years because of population growth, health concerns relating to pollution, and environmental distress caused by plastic in the oceans.

By taking the time to plan out the introductory paragraph and compile the necessary information to support the thesis statement, students will be prepared to write without the confusion or last-minute frustrations.

Visualization as a Cognitive Tool Pt. II

As previously discussed in part one, visual prompts, tools, and strategies can help learners who may struggle with linguistic presentations. Whether attentive issues, behavioral struggles, or deficits in auditory processing are the obstacle, visualization methods can assist with students whose needs vary in and out of the classroom.

 

Reading/Writing/Literacy

  • Use visuals to provide context for vocabulary terms. Teachers can boost memory and recall by pairing terms with images that explain or represent the definition. For example, science teachers may want to accompany terms for the parts of a flower with a diagram that depicts each part. They could use photos or time lapse videos to demonstrate how organic matter decays or decomposes. In history or world studies, students can benefit from seeing locations, countries, and landmarks that they are studying so that they have a better grasp of its importance. Instead of simply discussing Tanzania, teachers will want to show Tanzania on a map so that students can conceptualize its location with background knowledge of the surrounding areas.
  • For practices involving phonics and fluency, obviously pronouncing new words for students to chime back is beneficial to start. However, when working independently to decode, students may find that visual cue cards for prefixes/suffixes are more helpful for their visual approach to reading. For example, struggling decoders might find it helpful to see how words are segmented or broken down into parts and then physically put them back together like a puzzle. Visually speaking, words like “cub” versus “cube” could be confusing to beginning readers or English language learners. Teachers should provide opportunities to use letter cards or scrabble pieces to match “cub” with the photo of a baby bear; then add the “e” to match the word with an image of an ice cube. The physical manipulatives, combined with the images, help young readers visualize the proper spelling while also solidifying pronunciation and definitions.
  • Similarly, teachers and parents can help beginning readers by incorporating visual aids into sight words. As a memorization tool, basic flashcards only go so far. Instead, think about how the letters of the word could be constructed or decorated with images that relate to the word’s meaning. For example, the sight word “look” could be spelled using googly eyes for the double “o” to demonstrate someone looking at something. Perhaps the word “play” could incorporate athletic equipment to form the letters, with “p” resembling a basketball, “L” formed by a hockey stick, and “y” in the shape of a tennis racket.

 

Additional Concepts

  • If content involves a process or step-by-step explanation, consider using flow charts, mind maps, or other visual diagrams to help students conceptualize the process. For differentiation, teachers may ask advanced students to create their own flow chart using their text or class notes, while struggling students may use a word bank/concept bank to complete a fill-in-the-blank flow chart. Either way, the objective is the same; students are demonstrating knowledge of a specific process by constructing a visual/diagram.
  • For essays, written responses, and notetaking, teachers should instruct and encourage students to utilize graphic organizers to visually compose comprehensive outlines of their drafts. In spider diagrams, the main idea of the written response is the spider’s body, while the legs connect to supporting details, quotes, and examples, which helps students visually compose a well-supported argument or claim as a prewriting activity.

Besides standard images or symbols to help students, teachers can expand upon the idea of visuals to include videos, films/documentaries, art, graphic novel excerpts, artifacts, and video games. The more engagement and connections to prior knowledge that visuals can offer, the stronger the learning experience will be.

Strategies for Timed Essays

Timed essay tests can bring about a great deal of stress for students. The ticking clock is certainly a catalyst when it comes to test anxiety; however, the unknown components of an timed essay test are also daunting. The fact of the matter is, timed writing tasks will be a standard aspect of every student’s education at some point. Another fact, thankfully, is that there are strategies that students can employ to conquer these seemingly insurmountable timed essays.

 

 

Reread the prompt and put it into your own words

 

When students sit down to take an essay assessment, the clock begins counting down and nerves often take over. In a time-crunch, many students follow the impulse to put pencil to paper as quickly as possible and write until their wrists can take no more. The issue, however, arises when the completed essay fails to actually address the prompt or essay question. To avoid this, students should first carefully reread the prompt in an effort to put it into their own words. By rephrasing the question, students ensure that they fully comprehend what the prompt is asking and are able to more specifically begin to address it in their writing.

 

 

Spend 3-5 minutes drafting a simple outline

 

The few minutes that students spend sketching a plan for their essay will be returned twofold in the sense that, with this quick roadmap, they will have to spend less time figuring out the general direction of each paragraph since the essay is already loosely mapped out. The outline should include only bulleted information, not complete sentences. Page numbers for direct quotes or other references are also helpful on the outline. While each essay and outline will obviously vary, the same components are usually suggested for informational, argumentative, or expository responses.

  • When in doubt, the introduction paragraph can be comprised of:
    • A general statement, in which the topic, subject, theme, or concept is very generally introduced.
    • A specific statement, in which the general statement is given some specificity, elaboration, clarification, etc.
    • A thesis statement, in which the argument, claim, or goal of the response is introduced.
  • Most body paragraphs should include:
    • Transition words to organize the points, evidence, support, etc., in order of importance.
    • Introduction to the text evidence by title and/or author.
    • Direct quotes to support the original thesis statement or claim made in the introduction.
    • Interpretation of the quotes and explicit statement of how the quotes support the claim or argument.
  • Most conclusions should include:
    • A restatement of the thesis; advanced writers in middle and high school grades should work to rephrase the thesis statement. The overall claim or argument is the same; however, the wording is varied to avoid redundancy.
    • A final confirmation of the texts that were referenced and how they specifically relate to the topic or prompt.
    • A final statement to again generalize the purpose of the essay. **Students should get in the habit of using words directly from the prompt in their introduction and conclusion paragraphs to ensure that their responses are thoroughly and clearly connected to the prompt.

 

 

Reread each paragraph individually

 

It helps to read a response with fresh eyes to determine that writing is consistent and relative to the purpose of the prompt. If students have time at the end of a timed writing assessment, it is beneficial to reread each paragraph individually, referring back to the prompt in between paragraphs to ensure that each component (paragraph) serves its purpose and clearly answers the prompt.

 

 

Don’t get hung up on spelling

 

Unless otherwise specified by the teacher, students should avoid spending too much time contemplating spelling errors. Most often, timed essays are scored on content, including word choice, sentence structure or variation, and other content-driven writing skills. Therefore, perseverating over spelling is generally unnecessary. Instead, students should spend their time crafting and honing their argument.

A Change of Perspective: Activities for the Classroom

While viewpoints and perspectives tend to be seen as literature-based concepts, learners can truly benefit from this critical thinking skill in any academic content. Why is perspective-taking an important skill? Of course there are the obvious social implications that hinge on one’s ability to see things from another’s vantage point—like developing empathy, navigating others’ emotions, and building deeper connections with peers. In addition, students who are able to cognizantly adopt a different perspective while learning also initiate a better understanding of the content because they are engaging with it in a new or complex way.

 

Below are classroom suggestions and various activities that foster collaboration while encouraging learners to view subjects and opinions from a different lens.

 

  • Optical illusion images are great resources for introducing the concept of multiple perspectives to students, especially for the younger groups. Images like “The old woman/young lady” are natural discussion starters for students to begin to use alternate viewpoints. Teachers can collect and project optical illusion images for students to view. Ask students to remain silent while viewing, but to capture what they seen on a capture sheet for later discussion. After an initial viewing, ask students to pair up with someone that had at least one different observation or conflicting answer on the capture sheet. Then allow pairs to explain their viewpoints to one another.
  • Visuals, such as photos from news articles, magazines, graphic novels, or even stock photos can be the springboard for introducing the concept of perspective-taking with students. Display an image from the local newspaper, preferably one that exhibits or elicits an emotion. Without providing any context or headline, ask students to respond by writing the emotion that the subject or onlooker in the photo might be feeling. Ask students to discuss in groups, specifically focusing on why they think the person in the photo feels this particular way. Next, provide students with the text or article—ask them if their assumptions were correct. As the conversation progresses, ask students to consider the last time that they felt a similar emotion. What caused it? How was their scenario different from the actual news article/event? These group discussions allow students to not only connect with and relate to the article, but also connect with each other through speaking and listening.
  • A lesson around homophones and homographs can be a great way to spark discussions about perspectives and cultural implications. For instance, take a look at the homographs below:

minute – tiny OR a unit of time

moped – behavior demonstrating sadness OR a motorcycle

number – more numb OR a numerical value

row – a line OR to propel a boat

sewer – a drain OR a person who sews

wave – to greet someone by moving the hand OR sea water coming into shore

Depending on a person’s experiences, country/language of origin, home life, environment, etc., the homographs above could generate a number of different instantaneous visuals or subconscious thoughts from person to person. Especially as students age and their abilities to take different vantage points evolves, it is important that they explore the reasons behind all of our different perspectives. Many times, our cultural identities shroud our understanding of the “other side.” Therefore, these intentional practices allow students to come face-to-face with their own perspectives and to question them.

  • “Save the last word for me” is a close reading activity that also prompts discussion and alternate viewpoints. Students begin by reading the same passage independently. Readers are instructed to mark or highlight the line or sentence that they believed was most significant within the passage. One volunteer reads his chosen/highlighted sentence, but provides no reasoning or explanation as to why he considers it to be the most significant. Group mates must add their own interpretation of why that line is significant to the passage; the original volunteer speaks last and confirms/elaborates/clarifies his original choice. This activity encourages discourse around a common text, but relies heavily on the task of “getting into another person’s head.” Students must consider why their peer selected that specific line as significant, and can then speak on how they agree or perhaps found a different line to be more crucial.

 

Encouraging Reflective Processes in the Classroom

A significant aspect of growth mindset, which we have discussed in earlier blogs, involves reflection through self-assessment and thoughtful consideration. While students might enact reflective practices naturally, and without much conscious effort, the key for growth and understanding is to actively engage in purposeful reflection. So, what can teachers do to encourage this process? Plenty!

 

Most educators have heard of a KWL chart, which asks students to consider what they already know, want to know, and what they will eventually learn about a certain subject or topic. Often times, we utilize the KWL chart as a concept starter, but then we rarely have students revert back to it for reflection after the fact. This is a missed opportunity for reflection because at the center of a KWL chart, the essence, if you will, is the chance for students to reflect on prior knowledge and how that knowledge might connect to other concepts soon to be introduced. In doing this, the KWL chart, which some educators might consider a basic activator, transforms into more of a higher level thinking practice. To utilize it purposefully, teachers should focus much of the attention on the “K” section of the chart; form the opening discussion on what students are able to muster from memory and directed reflection. This way, students are able to garner a more in-depth view of the new concept by tying it to their prior knowledge.

 

Teachers can also spur reflection before beginning a new concept by asking students to consider the purpose of an upcoming task or project before they even get started. By asking students to consider the task and then reflect on similar tasks that they have completed before that might relate, students begin to make additional connections and cross-curricular links. There is also a real-world component at play here. When students know why they are tasked with an assignment, they are able to invest more attention and effort, especially when the objective is tied to a real-world concept or practice.

 

Reflection after the fact, what most of us consider to be linked with growth mindset and self-improvement, is obviously just as beneficial. When we encourage students to reflect, the process should extend beyond the material or content—they should truly be reflecting on the process or experience of learning. That is, ask students which method, activity, homework practice, or organizer was the most beneficial to their overall understanding. Did visuals or hands-on opportunities allow for more of a grasp? If students were to design their own assignment, which options would they prefer to use to reach the final objective? These thoughts and considerations act as subtle feedback to teachers, but also help to prompt students to consider who they are as learners and which strategies work best for them in certain scenarios.

 

Reflection can also happen with peer feedback. This is especially beneficial when assessing a peer’s writing. In seeing how another student approached the essay, planned the research, executed the argument, etc., it triggers an automatic reflective response—students begin to assess their own work against that of their peers. In reviewing a peer’s writing, students are subtly encouraged to think back to their own writing tendencies and how another person interpreted the task somewhat differently. This broadens a student’s understanding of their writing as a whole and allows them to see another’s perspective simultaneously.

Email Etiquette for Students: A Crash Course

If I had a pencil for every time I received a well-intended, but slightly rude, terse, or thoughtless email from a student, I could give Staples a run for its money. However, the positive thing about receiving one of these poorly organized emails is that it shows student initiative. Even a terribly composed email means that a student had the forethought to reach out for help and clarification. Another upside to the careless email conundrum is that it can be easily mended with a few helpful pointers and some practice.

Whether students are in elementary school, middle school, high school, or the post-secondary level of their education, email etiquette is a crucial skill for communicating with educators and advocating for themselves as learners. Starting young learners early with digital literacy skills and expectations allows them to build that critical foundation for blending communication and technology.

Here are some tips to share with your students:

  1. Always begin with a cordial greeting or salutation that suits your recipient. If students are emailing a friend or classmate about tonight’s homework, a casual greeting and the peer’s first name is fine. However, if emailing a teacher or principal, students should consider a more formal greeting and address the recipient as Dr., Mr., or Mrs. Students should know that jumping straight into a question or request without a standard greeting creates a demanding or somewhat rude tone, whether intentional or not.
  2. After the greeting, cut to the chase. Explain why you are emailing—what is the intention or purpose of this email? What information or response are you seeking? Keep it direct and concise, as to remove superfluous details or long-winded paragraphs.
  3. Take ownership of the question. For instance, if students are emailing about the homework assignment because they forgot to write it down, they should make mention of their error or oversight briefly in the email. This helps to show the teacher that, while the student may have neglected to write the assignment down, she is taking ownership of that mistake and taking initiative to remedy the situation.
  4. Be specific about the class that you are referring to in your email. Teachers often teach many courses, grade levels, or even subject areas. So if you are asking about the notes, handouts, or announcements that you may have missed, be sure to clarify which course or class period you are asking about. Especially for middle and high school students, pacing can vary from period to period, so it is especially helpful to remind the teacher of which specific period and date you are seeking information or materials for.
  5. Finish with a cordial closing to thank your recipient in advance. Be sure to digitally “sign” your email by including your full name. This is crucial. Oftentimes, students neglect to include their name at the end of an email. Too often when this happens, I am left wondering which of my 150 students could be soccerlover18@gmail.com, for instance. This makes it very difficult to provide a helpful response when teachers do not know who sent the original email.

How-to Proofread: For High Schoolers

Once students have reached high school, writing becomes an entirely new beast. From the research project, to a multi-page literary analysis, high schoolers are somewhat expected to have crafted their writing skills to a certain degree. Aside from college, where many of them will be analyzing scholarly articles and writing 20, 30, 40 page papers, high school writing tasks are as advanced as they have seen thus far. Perhaps even more surprising to students, is the fact that lengthier writing assignments will occur in every class, not simply English. With this knowledge, it is essential that high school students improve in their ability to proofread.

  • High school students can use cooperative learning strategies to proofread and peer edit more efficiently. For example, if three students decide to peer edit as a group, one group member should focus his criticism and editing to one area, grammar, for instance. While one group member reviews all three papers for grammatical missteps, another should focus solely on vocabulary, word choice, and spelling. This person should be accessing online thesaurus and dictionaries to ensure that terms and phrases are appropriately used. Finally, the third member of the peer editing group should be in charge of examining content—that is, does the writing masterfully address the prompt? With the tasks split up in such a way, students are more inclined to provide solid, effective feedback—as opposed to the smiley faces and “Good job!” that we teachers are so used to seeing after a peer edit.
  • High school-level writers can streamline their proofreading practice by using symbols or digital highlighting tools to flag errors or areas of need in their writing. Students may want to read their paper through once simply to identify where any issues lie. During this process, they will only mark or highlight areas in the paper where they should revert back to during revision. After issues are highlighted, writers should go back into their paper with a more fine-toothed comb approach. This means that, now that weak or confusing areas in the essay have been identified, they can really dig into making corrections specifically on the sentence level, correcting one line at a time.
  •  As many times as we tell students, it still baffles me that they disregard the warning: DO NOT RELY ON SPELLCHECK! By high school, students must be proofreading on a cognizant, deliberate scale—simply correcting all of the red squiggles will not suffice. Moreover, many spelling or grammar mistakes are mislabeled or ignored by spellcheck software. High schoolers must be prepared to take proofreading into their own hands; their knowledge of writing skills is much more reliable than the computer’s spellcheck.

High schoolers can raise the bar when composing written work by proofreading for sentence variety. They should be prepared to do some major rewriting when sentence variety and complexity is the focus. High school-level writers should be aware of certain clauses and the punctuation that accompanies them. More importantly, students will want to double check that their writing is fluid, clear, and varied on the sentence level—this makes for an elevated paper

 

How to Proofread: For Elementary School

Writing is an essential skill that children will encounter in every class as they progress through their education. An important aspect of the writing process that is not always explicitly taught is proofreading and editing. These skills are honed over time, but it is never too early for young writers to begin learning the ins and outs of proofreading their work.

  • For elementary schoolers that are just beginning the early stages of the writing process, the entire task can seem daunting, unfamiliar, and complex. Thus, it is important to ease into new writing concepts. One thing to start with is to teach students that proofreading is not an optional step—but instead, a crucial part of the writing process that should not be skipped or rushed through. The sooner young learners begin the process of checking their work, the better. The concept of proofreading and self-checking is beneficial because it translates into every academic content area. Students that proofread their writing likely double check their math, science, etc. It shows elementary schoolers that proofreading is not only about checking for errors, but taking a more active role in their learning. This sense of agency and self-advocacy is immensely important as students transition from elementary school to middle school.

  • Prepare students to begin proofreading by looking at one thing at a time. For instance, elementary schoolers may want to begin simply by looking for spelling errors. Narrowing their focus to just one aspect of the writing lessens the daunting feeling of having to perfect the writing in one fell swoop.
  • Once spelling errors have been identified and corrected, encourage students to look now at punctuation and sentence structure. Does the punctuation and capitalization appear where necessary? Are the sentences clear? Are there transition words when needed? Can we possibly combine any sentences to increase the complexity level? Of course, some of these skills require explicit instruction, some of which will come later in elementary school language arts
  • Encourage elementary schoolers to proofread aloud. This not only helps them catch their errors, but provides them with an opportunity to hear how their writing is progressing. Parents, peers, and teachers can model this process as well. It helps to provide young writers with a few guiding questions while they are proofreading out loud, such as “Am I using specific vocabulary?” “Do I need to include commas or periods to indicate a pause or stop?” “Are there any words or sentences that are unclear or confusing?”

  • Perhaps the most important question that young writers should ask themselves before, during, and after proofreading is: Does my writing answer or address the prompt or question? Often times, especially with children that are just beginning to learn writing skills, the work takes on a mind of its own—kids get so into what they are writing, that they lose sight of the original purpose or focus. One way to help elementary schoolers identify this lack of focus or cohesion, is to provide visuals of the prompt, sentence frames, and checklists for final drafts.