To understand how to focus writing, we must know how to focus our thinking. Practice starting with a broad topic and break it into smaller parts through dialogue with someone else or in a thinking map such as a tree map.
So instead of writing about plants or animals in general, you can choose a specific topic, such as tulips, to write about. To focus writing even further, you can write about the season in which to plant tulips, or what colors of tulips there are, etc.
List as many, varied audiences that you can think of writing for, or that other people write for. Don’t forget to include yourself – sometimes we keep personal diaries, journals, etc. just for us. On that note, think of Anne Frank – do you think she ever intended her diary to be read by people all over the world, including hundreds of thousands of children in classrooms? What is the greatest scope of audience you would be willing to write for? (e.g., your close family, distant relatives, class, entire school, local newspaper, worldwide publication, etc.) Why?
A powerful, clear purpose for writing is essential in order to connect with your audience. Categorize the following forms of writing in the different purposes (listed in the top row). [Answers shown for demonstration purposes.] Once you have categorized them, try to add more to each list!
a specific person, place, or event
how to do something
a personal experience
to portray an opinion or point of view
to fix a problem
about a very specific topic
What is your point of view about important topics? What gives you the right to judge them? What criteria do you use to evaluate topics? Do you consider the overall context or situation and how your background knowledge affects your opinions? Take an example of an important topic and break down why you feel the way you do about it. Examples: school uniforms, a popular movie or TV show, a certain kind of food, etc.
Ask the student questions about any composition (e.g., informational article, passage, book, story, etc.):
Why would the author write this – what is their purpose?
How might the author have gathered this information?
What were the struggles or problems noted in the text?
What else would you like to know that the text did not include?
What behaviors of the author would you like to emulate, or copy?
Have a discussion to check the child’s comprehension of the piece of literature. Ask them to draw a picture to go with the text.