Writing with Colors


This year, my standardized test scores were pretty good. I had some seriously high growth, especially in ELA. My kids all totally kicked BUTT on the open response questions, which I think made a huge difference. How'd they do it? Well- I really think it was a professional development course I went to last year called writing with colors.  The concept is simple- color code your writing to make sure that you have hit all the important points! Here is the quick and dirty of what we learned about.



To start off, the topic sentence of your writing is pink. It seems simple, but so many of my kiddos simply didn't understand the concept of a topic sentence. They thought saying "I am going to tell you about polar bears" was acceptable. Um, no. Turning the question into a statement or PQA (put the question in the answer) is an easy way for all kids to be able to succeed in this area. Equally as often, they just jump into the meat of it and forget to include it at all.  To make sure they don't forget it, they highlight the topic sentence in pink.


Is it just me, or does anyone else have kiddos that love to ramble? No sequence or transition words, they just go, and go, and go.... 


Starting to get into the meat of it! Quotes or other paraphrased text evidence are highlighted in green. You also use this color while reading the text to highlight the information you plan to use for the open response. Keeping one uniform color for the text highlighting is helpful to see how accurately the kids are highlighting, too. Once the kiddos are writing the response, the text they quote directly is highlighted in green as well. 





Explanations of the quotes are BLUE. This color is also used in annotating the text, but is a little bit tricky. After you highlight the text in green, you write WHY you chose to include a quote in the margin of the text. Why is it important? What makes this bit of text relevant? After it's written, you highlight it in blue. Once you are on to the open response writing, you highlight the explanations in blue as well. 




This one is my favorite! The magic color is for whatever "magic" you want the kids to focus on. For me, I don't change mine up. It's always the SIM starters, which we use to explain text evidence. They are:
This shows that...
This is important because...
This means that...

I think this was the game changer for my kiddos. They were pretty good about selecting the text they needed to reference to prove their thinking, but they had a difficult time remembering to explain the quote. The SIM starters have been the game changer for them! The secret formula for us has been:

topic sentence
transition
SIM starter
evidence
explanation
transition
SIM starter
evidence
explanation
transition
SIM starter
evidence
explanation/conclusion


Once the response is all written, it comes out looking a bit like this...


I wish I could give you a link to a PD book or course you could take, but I couldn't find anything! All the credit goes to the Writing with Colors people (whose names I do not know) because this fabulous idea is all theirs. Enjoy!

6 comments:

  1. I have heard of "stoplight paragraphs (red, yellow and green), but I hadn't heard of this format! I like it even better! Thanks!!!

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  2. I saw this on my Bloglovin' feed and had to come check out the whole thing--I'm teaching topics and supporting details right now. I love this! My kids are really into colors, too, so I think I'm going to give it a try with the 8th graders and see where I get. Thanks for sharing this!

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  3. I love this! We're starting Smarter Balanced Test Prep in the next couple weeks, and this will be a huge help for the performance task and extended responses!

    Meg
    Third Grade in the First State

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  4. Hi. I'm the creator of Writing With Colors approach. Allison Renna. May I ask where you received your workshop, who the instructor was and if you were given permission to publish the strategy on your blog?

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  5. PS Thank you for the compliments and I'm so thrilled you saw so much improvement in your student's thinking and writing. That is the point of the strategy!! I would love to hear more about your experience and have some other tips you may not have received in your workshop since I didn't teach it. Feel free to email me at allisonrenna@gmail.com. (And feel free to look up my name so you don't think I'm someone making up that this strategy was created by me)

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  6. One final comment...I'm a little concerned who your instructor was because he/she confused the blue and yellow. The sentence starters could be in yellow b/c they identify the start of the commentary/analysis of the details/quotes (green) and the sentence starters themselves could be considered style which is what yellow is supposed to be. Typically yellow is not in a non-fiction open response. Anything that directly answers the question that is a fact from the text is supposed to be green and anything that is the students explanation and connection of how those facts support the topic itself is blue.

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