As teachers, we have many roles: instructors, counselors, air-traffic controllers, role-models, chief cooks, and bottle washers. . . . We shouldn't also have to be deep-pocket donors, buying all of our classroom supplies. That's why we love the word free, especially when it relates to writing resources. And free is best when it means not just "free of charge" but also "free to use, modify, and share." Really and truly free. So, as you set up your writing classroom for the year, make sure to use these free resources from Thoughtful Learning.
You assign students to write an explanatory essay, and immediately five hands go up: "But I don't know what to write about!"
Thankfully, you can find hundreds of writing topics sorted by grade and major mode—narrative, explanatory, persuasive, response to literature, creative, and research. When you go to k12.thoughtfullearning.com, just click on "Writing Topics" in the top menu bar.
Okay, so everybody in class has found a writing topic, but you still get a lot of questions: "What do you mean by explanatory essay?"
In answer, you can show students free online models written by other students and sorted by grade and mode. Each is a strong model of its type at its level, showing students how they can write effectively. You can use these examples to inspire student writers or to demonstrate a specific trait of writing (ideas, organization, voice) or a specific literary device (metaphor, flashback, sensory details).
With their topics selected and their strong models before them, students plunge into the writing process. But what happens when they get stuck?
- In prewriting, some students are struggling to gather effective details. How about giving them a quick minilesson on "Asking and Answering the 5 W's and H" or "Elaborating Ideas Using Different Levels of Details"?
- In the drafting phase, other students are having trouble focusing their work. You could help them with "Forming a Thesis Statement" or "Developing an Opinion Statement."
- In revision, a number of students need to improve their writing voice. How about a minilesson on "Adjusting Your Writing Voice" or "Deciding When to Use a Formal or Informal Voice"?
- During editing, students might need help with "Correcting Subject-Verb Agreement" or "Fixing Run-On Sentences" or "Using Commas in a Series."
You can find many more free minilessons for writing as well as 21st century skills and social-emotional intelligence. If you are seeking help with a specific issue, do a keyword search to find the best minilesson for you.
All the while that students develop their essays, they need to know how their writing will be graded. "Can I see strong, good, okay, and poor explanatory essays? Can I see a rubric for each of these essays? Can I get a blank rubric to use while I develop my own essay?"
Yes. That word is even better than free. You can find dozens of free assessment models sorted by grade and major mode of writing. Each includes a completed rubric for the model, a blank rubric to download and use, and three other models in the same mode but at different levels of performance.
Why All This Free Stuff?
You still might be suspicious that all this free stuff comes with a catch. How does Thoughtful Learning benefit from giving this stuff away? Here's the bottom line: Thoughtful Learning is successful only if teachers are successful, and teachers are successful only if students are successful. We want to help kids learn and help you teach, so we provide lots of free stuff. It's as simple as that.