Monday, April 29, 2013

Oral Writing Part 2: Speaking in Paragraphs

Once your students can answer questions in complete sentences AND add a detail sentence (Adder), your students are ready for the next challenge: Speaking in paragraphs!  Begin by having students consistently give at least 2-3 Adders to help support their answer or provide more information about their answer.  Going back to my example with Maria, the next progression into Oral Writing should follow this pattern:



"Who is the main character of the story?"


 "The main character of the story is Maria."

"Maria is a very compassionate person."


"She is compassionate because she likes to help the other characters in the story."


"For example, when Nathan is lost and can't find his way, Maria uses a map to get him there."

"In conclusion, the main character is Maria, who is very kind."

In Math and Science, students constantly need to explain their reasoning for an answer, so Oral Writing fits right into EVERY subject!  

Problem: 36 inches = ____ feet

Thirty- six inches equals how many feet?
Thirty- six inches equals three feet.
I know this because when I go from a smaller unit to a larger unit, I divide.
For example, there are twelve inches in one foot, so I divided thirty- six by twelve.
The number twelve goes into the number thirty- six three times.
To sum up, 36 inches = 3 feet.

This model can be differentiated and used at ANY level.  As Coach B. states from experience, "Even kindergarteners can speak in paragraphs!"

Who is your favorite character in the story?
My favorite character was Maria.
She was my favorite because she was really nice to everyone.
Maria was nice because she liked to help people.
For example, she helped Nathan when he was lost.
In conclusion, Maria was my favorite character.

What does five plus five equal?
Five plus five equals ten.
The answer is ten because if you have five things and add five more things, you get ten when you count them all together.
For example, I have 5 fingers up and if I put five more fingers up, I will count 10 fingers altogether.
In conclusion, 5+5= 10.

Important Adders:

Because:  The gesture for 'because' is clapping your hands once as the student says the word.  We should use because to make our beliefs stronger! This word is so important because it alerts others that evidence is about to be given to support their answer.  In this transfer to Common Core, we all know how important evidence is!  The WBT definition for evidence is "information you use to prove what you are saying is right." You should practice WEAK evidence and STRONG evidence often.  The BEST way to introduce these concepts to your class is to go to and use the FREE PDF's where Coach B. teaches your class everything they need to know about using because and giving good evidence (and even counter evidence!) while using oral writing.  Sign in, click on Free E-books and then download "How We Should Use Because" and "What is Evidence", to get started!

Example Popper:  The gesture is to act like you are pulling an idea from the top of your head.  This adder should always be followed by a comma (For example,...).  It is necessary for students to give specific examples to further explain their point.  Many test prep questions ask for students to be able to give examples using the reading, so it should be part of our daily teaching practice to require it from students. It also forces them to dig a little deeper.  If you want a student to provide a specific example to support their answer, simply do the gesture for an example popper and they should again RESPOND IN A COMPLETE SENTENCE.  We must always have students critically think when forming and justifying their answers.

Concluder: The gesture to get a student to give their concluding sentence is the "safe" signal in baseball.  This is where the student paraphrases everything they have stated in their answer, in one closing sentence.  Teach students to use "In conclusion," or "To sum up,"in the beginning of their concluder.

There you have it!  It may seem like an impossible task to get your students to speak in paragraphs, but PRACTICE and it will eventually become the standard in your classroom.  If students get stuck or feel shy at first using Oral Writing, the next blog post will address creating confidence in our students the WBT way! There are also a number of additional Adders (Conjunction Adders, Adjective Adders, Preposition Adders, etc.) that are introduced and explained in the book, so purchase it and read the BONUS chapter to learn some more ways to make your student's Oral Writing even spicier! Of course you will not always need  your students to respond in complete paragraphs all the time;it will really depend on the question.  The gestures are there for you to cue students to give you additional information, when you deem it necessary.  The next post in the Oral Writing series will give you ideas of how to use different sentence frames to get answers that use critical thinking and require paragraph answers.


  1. Jasselle, your oral writing series is MAGNIFICENT! I SO want to have your kids next year in sixth grade! I am kicking myself for not introducing air punctuation to my kids this year, but am going to intro the period gesture this week, and really work on run on sentences. You are an inspiration :) Your newest video is absolute magic. Give your class a ten finger woo from me!

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  3. Thanks so much Sarah! I admire how much you have under your belt yet you continue to work hard and create wonderful and carefully planned lessons!


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