Writing Mini-lessons with Sock Puppets: Creating a Lead

As a teacher I have a fundamental goal of teaching writers that will some day teach writers. I try to do this by modeling what it means to write and making my process as open as possible.  I believed this when I taught in 6th grade and I believe it now at the college level.

That belief is not the only thing that does not change.

My students (I teach all writing intensive classes) still struggle with writing leads (or as I found out on Twitter last night ledes….for the journalism folks). They will also have to teach young writers on how to start a paper.

Library of Mini-Lessons

I decided to continue my mutlimodal writing mini-lesson series. We discussed on #engchat class night how we should work together to create library of mini-lessons that students would use in a blended environment.

Writing Leads 

Here is my next mini-lesson.

I tried to accomplish a few goals.

  • First I explicitly defined what goes into a good lead/lede. I settled on restating the problem and drawing in the audience.
  • I then looked at mentor texts. I selected examples from Medium. When I was taking screenshots I wished I would have written down author information so I could propoerly cite. Discovery on Medium is not great yet.
  • I then created a sock puppet mini-lesson to discuss the lesson (tutorial post coming in next few days).

Here is what is missing.

  • More guided practice. I have not figured out how to include this well in my mini-lesson. I am thinking I would need to to screencast the re-writing of a lede and then have students complete a Google Form or Doc on the re-written lead. They would then need to share and discuss their writing.
  • More indepenent practice. This would hopefully translate into student writing.

Writing Leads for Your Audience

Audience matters. At the secondary level you should know the discourse practices of your field. For example I looked at the last five issues of The Reading Teacher and Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy almost all of the articles start with a vignette.

When I compared that result to research journals only about  half the articles started with a vignette. In more technical journals authors often just state the problem. In research journals the first sentence and the first citation seem to carry more weight.


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