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The Smart Writing Student Handbook, 10-pack

By Laura Robb

This compact, easy-to-carry writing guide reinforces important lessons from Smart Writing’s units of study, summarizes key points, and offers tips, rules, and guidelines for when students are writing on their own.


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The Smart Writing Series
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The Smart Writing series includes:

Additional Resource Information

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Companion Resources

Writing Tools:

In this section, you'll find samples and forms that will help you plan, write, revise, and edit different kinds of writing.

Mentor Texts
You can study these mentor texts alone, or you might consider reading and discussing them with an at-home peer partner or with a small group of students. Most importantly, you can enjoy reading and using mentor texts to improve your own writing.

Here are some published pieces by well-known author Ralph Fletcher.

Mentor Text: “Funeral” by Ralph Fletcher
Mentor Text: “Jonathan Miller” by Ralph Fletcher
Mentor Text: “A Pox Upon Us All” by Ralph Fletcher

Below are some mentor texts by students just like you for you to read and use to deepen your understanding of specific kinds of writing. The students' teachers and I chose these pieces because each one has a strong voice, and each one can provide you with an opportunity to learn more about your writing process. These students selected their own topics and worked with peer partners at every stage of writing. Select a text below, adjust your writer's eye, and read my comments. Then use the questions I provided with the text to learn more about writing as you read.

Mentor Text: "Equality through Action?" a short play by Chris
Mentor Text: "Tanzanian Top Ten," an informative essay by Tabor
Mentor Text: "Target," a short story by Caroline
Mentor Text: "The Wave," an analytical essay by Caroline
Mentor Text: "The 15th Amendment," an informative/explanatory essay by Louisa
Mentor Text: "Where I'm From," a poem by Danielle

Writing Plans

Planning ahead and organizing your ideas makes writing easier and clearer. Use these forms to help you think about what you want to say.

Writing Plan for a Paragraph
Writing Plan for a Short Memoir
Writing Plan for a Short, Short Story
Writing Plan for a Persuasive Essay
Writing Plan for an Analytical Essay
Writing Plan for an Informative Essay
Tips for Planning a Compare/Contrast Essay

Sample Criteria

Criteria list what you need to include in your writing. Use these samples, or those you develop with your teacher, to evaluate different kinds of writing.

Criteria for a Paragraph Criteria for a Short Memoir Criteria for a Short, Short Story Criteria for a Persuasive Essay Criteria for an Analytical Essay Criteria for an Informative Essay Criteria for a Compare/Contrast Essay Criteria for Diverse Genres

Peer- and Self-Evaluation
Use these forms to examine your own writing (self-evaluation) or help a writing partner look at it (peer-evaluation) to improve your draft.

Peer/Self-Evaluation of a Short Memoir
Peer Evaluation of a Short, Short Story
Peer-Editing a Persuasive Essay
Peer Evaluation: Analytical Essay
Peer-Editing an Informative Essay
Self- or Peer-Editing Free Choice Writing

Tips and Guidelines

Look here for help with planning and drafting different kinds of writing.

Basics: Writing a Paragraph Writing a Short Memoir Writing a Short, Short Story Writing a Persuasive Essay Writing an Analytical Essay Writing an Informative Essay Writing a Compare/Contrast Essay Free Choice Writing

Help with Different Kinds of Writing

In this section, you'll find mentor texts, writing plans, sample criteria, and tips and guidelines for the following genres, or kinds of writing.

Writing a Paragraph
Strong paragraphs are the building blocks of good writing. Look here for help with different kinds of paragraphs.

Writing Plan Sample Criteria Tips and Guidelines

Writing a Short Memoir
A short memoir is a snapshot of a moment in the writer's life. Use this section to capture a memory in writing.

Writing Plan Sample Criteria Peer- & Self-Evaluations Tips and Guidelines

Writing a Short, Short Story
The resources in this section help you plan, write, and evaluate a story about a real-life event.

Writing Plan Sample Criteria Peer- & Self-Evaluations Tips and Guidelines

Writing a Persuasive Essay
In persuasion, a writer develops an opinion about a topic and convinces others to agree. This section helps with one kind of persuasion, the essay.

Writing Plan Sample Criteria Peer- & Self-Evaluations Tips and Guidelines

Writing an Analytical Essay
An analytical essay makes a thesis statement and supports it with explicit details and inferences. This section shows you how.

Writing Plan Sample Criteria Peer- & Self-Evaluations Tips and Guidelines

Writing an Informative Essay
An informative essay tells the reader about a topic by describing, explaining, discussing, giving directions, etc. Look here for help with focusing on a topic.

Writing Plan Sample Criteria Peer- & Self-Evaluations Tips and Guidelines

Writing a Compare/Contrast Essay
A compare/contrast essay looks at choices, considers likenesses and differences among them, and then chooses one. Here's help for doing this in writing.

Writing Plan Sample Criteria Tips and Guidelines

Free Choice Writing
Free choice writing lets you choose what you want to write about and what genre, or kind of writing, you use. Use this section for ideas.

Sample Criteria Peer- & Self-Evaluations Tips and Guidelines

Student Writing

Narrative Writing: Short Memoir

Hattie and Danny, both eighth graders, choose memories that are important to them. Danny's piece is short and Hattie's is long; together they show that what you want to say determines how long the piece will be.

  1. "Youngest" by Hattie

"Youngest" (Final Draft)
"Youngest" (Edited Draft)
Hattie’s Writing Plan

  1. "A Golf Tournament" by Danny

"A Golf Tournament" (Final Draft)
"A Golf Tournament" (Edited Draft)
Danny’s Writing Plan
Danny’s Planning Notes

Narrative Writing: Short, Short Story

These three short stories take different approaches. Rebecca uses inner dialogue to share her feelings. Sabrina crafts a story that is mainly dialogue. Preston has the plot and problem for a fine short story but needs to add show-don't-tell details to his final draft. Sabrina crafts a story that is mainly dialogue.

  1. "Waiting for His E-mail" by Rebecca
  2. "Waiting for His E-ma" (Final Draft)
    Rebecca’s Writing Plan

  3. "The Fight" by Preston
  4. "The Fight" (Final Draft)
    "The Fight" (Rough Draft II)
    "The Fight" (Rough Draft)
    Preston’s Planning Using "Questions about Plot"
    Preston’s Planning Using "Questions to Help You Plan a Short, Short Story"
    Preston’s Writing Plan

  5. "Best Friend Moves Away" by Sabrina
  6. "Best Friend Moves Away" (Final Draft)
    "Best Friend Moves Away" (Rough Draft)
    Sabrina’s Writing Plan

Argument: Persuasive Essay

These essays were written by two seventh graders (Kate and Courtney) and a fifth grader (Mia). Kate's detailed and thoughtful planning helps her focus on developing her points and writing well. Mia pours a great deal of effort into her persuasive essay: She plans arguments for and against; she plans possible opening sentences; and she revises her first draft in great depth. Like Mia's, Courtney's level of revision and editing are excellent.

  1. "Bubbles or No Bubbles?" by Kate
  2. Kate’s Self Evaluation for Persuasive Essay
    "Bubbles or No Bubbles?" (Final Draft)
    Isaac’s Peer Editing of Kate’s Persuasive Essay
    "Bubbles or No Bubbles?" (Early Draft)
    Kate’s Writing Plan

  3. "I Need a Cell Phone" by Mia
  4. "The Fight" (Final Draft)
    "I Need a Cell Phone” (Final Draft)
    "Why I should have a cell phone" (Third Draft)
    "Why I should have a cell phone" (Second Draft)
    "Why I should have a cell phone" (First Draft)
    "Why I should have a cell phone" (Writing Plan and Opening Sentences)

  5. "Laptop: good for society" by Courtney
  6. "Laptop: good for society" (Final Draft)
    "A Laptop for All Students" (First Draft)
    Planning Notes for "Laptops for All Students"
    Courtney’s Writing Plan

Argument: Analytical Essay

Seventh graders Max and Liza were in the same class, studying a unit on conflict and war. Although their essays are about different books, both create thesis statements about trust. Eighth grader Cara's work departs from the traditional essay structure and opens other possible writing approaches to think about. All three of these writers pay attention to feedback from peer-evaluations and greatly improve their final drafts.

  1. "War Trust" by Max
  2. Max’s Evaluation of the Process
    "War Trust" (Final Draft)
    Ellen’s Peer Evaluation of Max’s First Draft Essay
    "War Trust" (Edited Early Draft)
    "Lie to Me" (First Draft)
    Max’s Writing Plan

  3. "Trusting Family" by Liza
  4. Liza’s Evaluation of the Process
    "Trusting Family" (Final Draft)
    "Trusting Family" (Edited Early Draft)
    Annika’s Peer Evaluation of Liza’s First Draft
    "Trusting Family" (First Draft)
    Liza’s Writing Plan

  5. "What Will This Become?" by Cara
  6. "What Will This Become?" (Final Draft)
    "What Will This Become?" (Edited Second Draft)
    "Inner Thoughts" (First Draft with Peer and Teacher Comments)
    Cara’s Writing Plan

Informational/Explanatory Writing

The two seventh-grade explanatory essays included here were completed in history class: (1) Caroline's essay based on a study of Antietam and a visit to the Antietam battlefield and (2) Emily's essay on Queen Elizabeth and the Tudor Court. Notice Caroline's two-page plan, which is the key to her in-depth writing. Emily's outline is less detailed but she expands on it with her first draft. Both Caroline and Emily write with strong voices.

  1. "Antietam"—Informative Essay by Caroline
  2. "Antietam" (Final Draft)
    "Antietam" (First Draft)
    Caroline’s Writing Plan

  3. "The Tudor Court"—Informative Essay by Emily
  4. "The Tudor Court" (Final Draft)
    "The House of Tudor" (Additions to the First Draft)
    "The House of Tudor" (First Draft)
    Emily’s Writing Plan

Free Choice Writing

Here are two very different genres (kinds of writing), a poem and a pourquoi folktale, that show what two students chose to write when they had a chance. Notice how thoughtful both David and Lucy are about their writing.

  1. "How the Polar Bear Got White Fur"—Pourquoi Tale by David
  2. David’s Self-Evaluation of Choice Writing
    "How the Polar Bear Got White Fur" (Final Draft)
    Brainstorm: "How the Polar Bear Got White Fur" (Planning Notes and First Draft)

  3. "Who Put the ‘Sick’ in Cicada" by Lucy
  4. Lucy’s Self-Evaluation of Choice Writing
    "Who Put the ‘Sick’ in Cicada" (Final Draft)
    "Who Put the ‘Sick’ in Cicada" (Edited Early Draft)
    Brainstorm: "Cicadas" (Planning Notes and First Draft)

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