Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Oral Writing Part 1: The Basics

Oral Writing has transformed the way my students write and speak.  It is not designated to only parts of the day or instruction, it is an ongoing practice that can be used for any subject ALL day.  If you want your students to speak in precise and organized paragraphs, begin this WBT technique in your classroom NOW!  Even in two months time I promise you will see improvement!

Oral writing begins with requiring ALL students at ALL times to speak in complete sentences.  If you ask your students "Who is the main character of the story?", only accept answers that are in a complete sentence and use words from the question (many know this as TAG):

                                     Question --> Answer

                       "Who is the main character of the story?"

                       "The main character of the story is Maria."

If students do not answer in a complete sentence, do not become frustrated or scold them for not following directions, simply cuff your hand to your ear with a smile which will send them the instant message to answer in a complete sentence.  When students begin answering in complete sentences as second nature, increase your expectations!  Students love to give the bare minimum for their answers, but the beauty of the Adder will require them to add a detail sentence and dive a little deeper!  In  the book, Whole Brain Teaching for Challenging Kids, it says, "Adders are defined as any sentence that adds information to a previous sentence". When you want a detail sentence from a student, point your forefingers together and spin them in circles.  The whole class will also make the Adder gesture and the student will be required to add more information to their answer.  

                          Question--> Answer --> Adder

                   "Who is the main character of the story?"

                   "The main character of the story is Maria."
                    "Maria is a very compassionate person."

Air Punctuation Basics

  • To prevent students from rambling on and creating run-on sentences, the period gesture is the sound of hitting the brakes "eeerrt!"  Students should also use this to routinely signify their periods. 
  • An exclamation point  is signified by raising an arm up in a fist and bringing it down with a "YES!" 
  • A question mark is signified by shrugging your shoulders and saying "HUH?" 
  • The gesture for a capital letter  is placing one hand on the other and stretching the top hand upwards to signify a large letter.
  • Quotation marks are made by making air quotes with your index and middle finger with both hands (More on quotations later in this Oral Writing series!)

I am going to be honest; having students answer EVERYTHING in complete sentences took some getting used to!  In Math, when I asked a simple question as part of a larger problem and the students took the extra time to answer in complete sentences, I began to think it took up too much time to get through the problem!  Then it hit me, Don't we want students to constantly repeat material so it builds dendrites?  If we are rushing through lessons, doesn't that say something in itself?  As teachers we must remember that the students NEED the extra time to process our lessons, and oral writing is yet another way for students to think through their answers.  The goal is for our students to begin speaking in paragraphs, but when first introducing Oral Writing to your class, use the pattern above.  Once students answer questions routinely, complete the diagram to include Adders.  It may seem like this will be a daunting task for your class, but I guarantee if you are consistent and have FUN with Oral Writing, it will become automatic in a short amount of time!  Be prepared to spend a great deal of time the first few days stopping to make EVERY student fix their answers so that it is in a complete sentence.  Do NOT introduce adders until students have mastered the basic question -->answer pattern.

Next in this series:  Oral Writing: Speaking in Paragraphs
For more on Oral Writing, read Chapter 30 in Whole Brain Teaching for Challenging Kids (it sneaks in on page 201).


  1. This is a wonderful post and something i REALLY need to take the time to do! thanks for inspiring me!
    :) Dana
    Fun in 1st Grade

  2. Thanks so much Dana! I checked our your blog and wowwie! You have some great stuff and so many followers! :)

  3. Thanks for giving me this link - perfect! Just what I was looking for!

  4. i was looking for this article, and i found your blog is really great, I do my research on WBT and oral writing so I have to get refferences as many as possible , i love your and i will take it as my refferences yet i also have to include your name on my research, my I know your name?
    sorry for this messy grammer and impolite request,
    iI look forward for your answer,
    thankyou very much :)


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