On Day One of school, I had a conversation about informational writing with a third-grade class.
I asked them if they know what informational writing is.
They said, “Writing that helps people learn things. Important things.”
I read excerpts of three different texts aloud to them, and then I asked:
“Why is informational writing important?”
“We learn about our world and why things work like they do” (after reading about the sun).
“We learn about friendship. We learn about relationships. We think about why we need each other” (wait—we’re in what grade? That’s right, third. Those are their exact words after a page of Owen and Mzee: The Language of Friendship. If you don’t know it: An orphaned baby hippo is brought to a park to share the habitat of a grouchy, 130-year old tortoise and . . . well, you need to read it).
“We learn about history. We learn from the past. Like why things like wars happen and what to do different, so they don’t happen again. We learn things that can save our lives” (after a page of a book about the Titanic, a topic that never, ever fails to captivate third-graders).
I basked in the glow of their words, their thoughts, their voices. Eight years on the planet and they already know so much.
My task: To channel this knowledge and energy into their own informational writing as they study the craft.
I asked one last question: “So, what do you think about informational writing?”
A general “It’s so interesting!”
We’re off and running.