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Thursday / April 25

5 Memorable Questions for Every Writer

Remember when you drew your first picture to share as a greeting to a loved one? This is often when one’s first understanding of written communication is initiated. It’s a beginning writing experience of most that, with instruction, grows into one’s conception of the five-paragraph essay. Taught throughout the grades, this blueprint serves as the base of later daily written communication that must be modified depending on audience and purpose. The 5-paragraph essay is a start but isn’t appropriate for every type of written communication — and students need practice making decisions about their writing.

How Do We Communicate in Writing? 

Think about all the different communications you have in a day, either spoken or written. Who are you interacting with? What are you saying? During each exchange there’s an audience and a message to be conveyed. How would you rate yourself in terms of the success of your communications? Does each accomplish its intent? Does each get the response you hoped for? Whether verbal or written, so often when we rethink these communications, we wish we had a chance to revise.

Perhaps what is needed is a comprehensive thinking and planning framework that supports better upfront preparation, includes possibilities for revision, and results in the sharing of the message we’re intending. To promote strong communication, the questioning framework shown below needs to be considered from the perspective of the writer, from the onset to the delivery of each message or writing endeavor.

Five Questions Framework
  • Why am I writing this?
  • Who’s the audience I am writing this for?
  • What’s the best language to use?
  • What format should I use to most effectively share my thinking?
  • How can I revise to make my writing crystal clear?

When introducing this Five Questions Framework to students it’s important to remind them, even those who say they don’t enjoy writing, that they write all the time.

They message each other on various platforms, they post publicly to TikTok and Instagram and other social media spots. Regardless of the medium or the length of the message, which could be just a snippet in length, we propose students be taught this five-question organizing framework they can instantly consider, to effectively craft and communicate their messages.

Teaching the Five Questions Framework

Introduce the framework with students while reviewing a text from a social media app they might be using, an excerpt from a historical speech, an article about polling and statistical analysis, or a science blog.  Once you’ve discussed and practiced it together, invite students to select another text and with a partner answer the five questions from the perspective of the author. After practice, require that students illustrate how the framework is being used in all pieces of their writing. Remember practice makes permanent!

An Example

In Ms. Morgan’s 8th grade classroom she and her students read replies to a Tik Tok video where Neil deGrass Tyson asked the question What do you hear in space? After reading the replies, Ms. Morgan asked students to use the Five Questions Framework to better understand the intent of the responder who replied  “from what I understand, he’s not saying space has no sound he’s just saying we won’t be able to hear it” on Tik Tok, to Tyson’s question.

Figure 1. Five Questions Framework

 

Five Questions Framework

Questions to Answer Text Excerpt
TikTok on sound in space.

 

 

Posted reply: “from what I understand he’s not saying space has no sound he’s just saying we won’t be able to hear it”

●      Why am I writing this? To share an interpretation of what Tyson said and to add some clarification so it becomes clearer

that sounds can exist but might not be heard.

●      Who’s the audience am I writing this for? The other viewers on Tik Tok who are watching this video.
●      What’s the best language to use? Specific language is used that differentiates between the related ideas of sound and hearing.
●      What format do I use to share my thinking most effectively? Short very conversational response without attention to capitalization.
 

●      How can I revise to make my writing crystal clear?

This could be rewritten to be phrased as a question, since the author comments as a way to advance the conversation.

 

Having students review existing writing with this five-question framework in mind helps build their capacity to effectively  create their own writing, whether it be a social media post, a book review for English class, or a proposal for the media team at a new job. With multiple opportunities to use these 5 questions to craft purposeful writing for real-life situations, students will become more intuitive, flexible writers who can share messages with confidence and without hesitation.

Our new book, Teaching Writing From Content Classroom to Career, Grades 6-12, builds on this framework to help teachers show students how to make decisions about their writing in content area classrooms and in work-related communication. The book offers teachers a way to amplify what they’re already teaching about writing to make it even more relevant to students’ current and future interests.

Written by

Maria C. Grant, EdD, is a professor in the Department of Secondary Education at California State University Fullerton and the director of the Single Subject Credential Program at CSUF. Her work includes research and publications in the areas of disciplinary literacy, literacy in the content areas, science education, and pedagogy. In addition to her efforts at the university, Maria’s experience includes many years of teaching in high school and middle school science classrooms. Her most recent efforts include research and professional development work centered on reading, writing, and language within content classrooms.

Diane Lapp, EdD, is a distinguished professor of education at San Diego State University where her work continues to be applied to schools. She is also an instructional coach and teacher at Health Sciences High & Middle College. Throughout her career, Diane has taught in elementary, middle, and high schools. Her major areas of research and instruction regard issues related to the planning and assessment of very intentional literacy instruction and learning. Diane is the recipient of the ILA 2023 William S. Gray Citation of Merit, a prestigious award reserved for those who have made outstanding contributions to multiple facets of literacy development.

Marisol Thayre, PhD, is a secondary English teacher, author, and instructional coach. She has worked with preservice and experienced teachers alike in creating purposeful, collaborative, and data-driven classrooms for various grade levels and content areas. In addition to her role as a teacher leader and mentor, Marisol has presented both nationally and internationally on topics including assessment, secondary literacy strategies, differentiation, and collaboration. Her current research endeavors are focused on the integration of social emotional learning into content-area instruction. Marisol currently teaches high school English and college composition in San Diego, California.

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