Like many students his age, Zac was transitioning from learning about the mechanics of writing to being able to craft cohesive essays and stories.

Jen wanted to make sure Zac had a strong foundation to be a successful writer as he advanced through middle school and even looked ahead to high school. Zac already had great creative thoughts and foundational skills to work with, but he faced some common grade-level obstacles, such as:

As their Learning Partner, I worked with Jen and Zac to develop a flexible 4-week plan that combined live learning sessions, independent work times, and entertaining video lessons to support Zac’s developing writing skills with weekly micro-projects.

Week 1: Idea Banking & Mind Mapping

Zac kicked off his writing journey without much writing! Instead, we focused on pre-writing strategies to help him develop an approach for overcoming the “getting started” hump that so many of us face - even as adults! His first task was to begin an ongoing idea bank where he could record different thoughts, questions, and concepts, both big and small, to inspire his writing. With some guidance, Zac really let his ideas flow as he drew from his personal interests, books he enjoyed, and the world around him. Zac learned that great writers always keep a running log of ideas that they can continue to add to whenever inspiration strikes!

After narrowing down some of his initial favorite topics, Zac selected an idea to mind map - dragons! Mind mapping is an open-ended approach to explore and organize different facets of a topic. It’s also a great way to spark creative thinking! Zac learned that mind mapping is a helpful strategy to have in his “writer’s toolkit” that he can use whenever he needs help getting started on future assignments - whether for his writing journey with Bansho or in school!

Check out one of the mind maps Zac made during Week 1:

Mind Map of Dragons Story

Week 2: Writing a Short Story

Next, Zac was ready to take his terrific ideas and start crafting a narrative short story. During our second week together, we worked on translating ideas from his mind map into a story “mountain” structure, which includes a hook, exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution.

Story Mountain Structure

Zac began working in graphic organizers, like the one above, and was then able to string the parts of his dragon-themed story together in a document format, complete with character dialogue, transition words, and descriptive details to bring his story to life!

Week 3: Stronger Sentences & Informative Writing

After getting his creative juices flowing, plus a confidence boost from his first story writing experience, Zac was ready to take his writing to the next level! During week 3, we added some more structure to Zac’s writing journey with informative paragraphs. Here, we focused on the characteristics of strong sentences, and used the “hamburger model” to map out a topic sentence, supporting details, and a conclusion. Pulling from topics in his idea bank, Zac wrote many short paragraphs this week, including this one on ice hockey:

Sample Paragraph Hamburger Example

Week 4: Writing a 5-Paragraph Essay

For our Week 4 finale, we “leveled up” the single paragraph writing into a 5-paragraph essay structure. What once seemed like a daunting task was now within reach given the strategies and skills we built upon together, as well as the additional (and entertaining!) layer of asynchronous support from our Bansho video lessons, like this one:

Using a combination of the 5-paragraph “formula” and go-to strategies such as chunking information and color-coding, Zac was able to craft a thesis statement, provide evidence for his claim, and draw a sound conclusion about his essay topic of choice - the city of Calgary, Canada and all that it has to offer its residents and visitors.

Zac knocked it out of the park not only with structure and details but with his vocabulary and word choice as well! With the organizational support provided, Zac was able to go deeper with his descriptive language and incorporate a variety of text structures to create imagery and link ideas together.

When we wrapped up our four-week writing journey, Zac came away with many tips and tools for approaching assignments in the future. He also experienced firsthand that the art of writing is an ongoing process that requires planning, revising, feedback and flexibility!

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