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Best-of-Smekens Writing Conference:
Writing Remix 2018



Integrate Frequent Writing Experiences in the Content Areas

Efficient writing experiences

Target strong first-draft products

ELA classrooms will engage in the full writing process over multiple days and with multiple drafts. However, in the content-area classroom, first drafts are more common with a “Check & Change” in lieu of formal revision and editing.

Supportive writing experiences

Gauge if students are ready to generate writing independently

Every writing task does not need to be produced independently. First writing experiences within a new genre could be created with peers or small groups.

Effective writing experiences

Teach a skill before assigning a task

After the content learning and before the writing task, provide 3-5 minutes of focused instruction on a specific writing skill. 

Relevant writing experiences

Assess content accuracy and essential traits

Obtain a subject-area score (i.e., content knowledge) and a writing score (i.e., traits of ideas, organization, word choice, conventions) per writing task. 


Generate Short & Powerful Content-Area Writing

Simple summary

Generate short explanations in unique formats.


Demonstrate understanding with precise word choice.


Add a sense of audience to the writing task.

TO INFORM | Historical Tweets

TO REFLECT | To and From Letters


Summarize a complex concept with a simple equation.

Pattern equations found in This + That


Write After-Reading Summaries in the Subject Areas

Define the goal of a summary

Identify important information with Detail Lists

5-Point Detail List
Template | Example

10-Point Detail List
Template | Example

Oh, Yikes! History’s Grossest, Wackiest Moments

Lewis and Clark
Page 1 | Page 2

20-Point Detail List
Template | Example

Using text features, generate a Title-Wave Summary

Utilize the subheadings of a longer text to generate a summary after reading.

Complete an Information Pyramid

Students customize their understandings by completing an Information Pyramid with no one right answer.

Main Idea & Supporting Details
Template | Smartboard

Chronological (History)
Template | Smartboard

Cause & Effect
Template | Smartboard

Descriptive (Element/Concept)
Template | Smartboard

Support comprehensive summaries with frames

Students can hone their summarizing skills by completing the Somebody… Wanted… But… So… Then… frame. 

Students’ oral and written summaries need to match the same text structure of the passage.

Shrink the summary

Once students can generate a summary, then whittle down to the main idea from there. Provide smaller and smaller paper (or decrease their word limit). Challenge them to emphasize the most important and utilize precise word choice to create a single-sentence main-idea statement on a sticky note.


Deepen Content Understanding with Nonfiction Notebooks

Table of Contents
Yearlong | Per Unit



Boxes & Bullets

Identify the main idea, key point, or fact learned. Then bullet smaller, related supporting details below/adjacent to it.

Snapple Facts are interesting details | Snapple Real Facts website

Samples & Examples

Paraphrase the steps in a process by creating an example and captioning the steps.


Cut, Sort, & Label

Using images from pre-fab worksheets, students demonstrate knowledge and add a responsive element to extend their thinking.

Have students place cut-up worksheets to show sequence.

Students can sort information from a worksheet to compare and contrast.


Glue in a foldable that includes “flaps” or parts of the whole.

Literary Devices | Onomatopoeia

Literary Devices | Similes


Illustrated Summaries

Labeled Diagram

Sketch accurate & close-up details.

Use the infographics website as a resource for lessons, anchor papers, and for creating infographics.


Improve Math Talk, Science Talk, and Social Studies Talk

Purchase Activate by Katherine Mills Hernandez.

Up the student talk within individual conversations

Increase Math Talk with Timed Mingles using WODB

Support the connection between math and language.

Pairs review previously taught content using fun and funny movements using WODB

STAND UP—Discuss the answer to a review question while executing the designated method of delivery.
SIT DOWN—Teacher shares (e.g., I heard…), confirming information and clarifying understanding, as needed.

Review how voting affects communities.

Review how businesses help communities.

Review how money moves through communities.

Review the advantages of railroads.

Review Indiana entrepeneurs.

Review immigrants’ effect on the economy.

For a complete list of Stand-Up, Sit-Down suggestions, check out the Ramp Up Review Bookmark.

Up the student talk within small-group conversations

Pool thinking with Think, Ink, Pair, Square

Review with ABC-Chart Carousel

High school students review math concepts before a unit test.

Review math concepts on an ABC Chart before a unit test.

Encourage equal participation with Talking Sticks

Up the student talk while being active

Redefine work/morning work

Up the student talk within whole-class discussions

Enhance learning with flexible environments

Use furniture as objects in the service of learning.

HORSESHOE: Whole-class conversations are best when students can see each other.

PAIRS/SQUARES: Students think individually and share with a partner. Then two pairs discuss as a small group.

REPRESENT: After discussion time, a representative per group goes to the front of the class to share out.

FISHBOWL: Small group (i.e., fish) is encircled by remaining students (i.e., bowl).

Use the Fishbowl Procedure resources to define expectations to students.

Speak the subject with Talk Moves

Refine own understanding with the melding of others’ ideas. For more specifics on introducing and implementing Talk Moves within math class, check out Rachel Lynette’s blog.

Stephanie Kimmerly provides her Roosevelt Elementary School (Elkhart, IN) students with Talk-Moves bookmarks. This allows them to learn the various sentence starters for each one.

Bridget Longmeier introduces Talk Moves to third graders. “This is going to be game changing for our school with a 60% EL population! We need to get them talking and listening, and this is a great strategy to get them started.”

Fourth grade teacher Dan Myers adds to his Talk Moves display as he introduces a couple of talk moves to his HSA Belmont (Chicago, IL) students.