Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Universal Idea Connects K-5th

    Universal idea seems so...abstract. Well, it is. It's that unifying idea that connects students thinking throughout a piece of writing. Regardless of the subject/topic or content area, building a piece of writing around a Universal Idea (A.K.A BIG Universal Idea, Theme, thruline)  offers readers a true connection to the text.
Candy leads to a healthy life. (Thesis - first draft of an idea)

    Let's face it, not all readers care about your topic (insert: recess, Civil War, universal idea ;),homework, life cycles, human body system, etc.). Really, they don't. BUT... I have a hunch that the masses, the human race, does care about things such as: health, safety, benefits, injustice, leadership, better life, kindness, etc. Right? Right. Let's play this out through a look a familiar situation. You've been there before, you pick up something to read and see that it's about animals' structures and functions (insert eye roll), but then, all of a sudden you read a little further and see that the writer wants to connect it to survival. Well, I am pretty sure you care about survival.'re hooked. You then see that all of the paragraphs connect to this big idea of survival and you know you are moving toward understanding the writer's purpose. Ahhh, not just random facts about structures and functions, but facts using StopLight paragraphs that connect to SURVIVAL! It all makes sense and you leave the text with a better understanding of the topic and how to connects to something greater-something universal.

   So, while writing with a Universal Idea is still new to all of us, it's something that we hold in high value and work (through scaffolded experiences) to help our students grasp. From K to 5th, teachers are using the Gradual Release of Responsibility support students' understanding of writing with a Universal Idea. Check out some of the work of our own Buckner Bears whose work showcases an effort to make connections between topic and readers.

 Kindergarteners "cold write" : writing to support thinking about the UNIVERSAL IDEA: PATRIOISM.

Using a list of UIs to build schema. Kids work with partners to share thinking and determine words we  know and try out thesis statements with UIs. They also add some of their own universal ideas to the list!

Julie Brown leads a small group though creating a thesis statement with a UI that is connected  to "green" reasons and "yellow" support for those reasons. Writers begin to notice the connection between UIs and StopLight paragraphing as they prewrite. Next up: research and drafting with "reds" explanation and examples.  

Oh, and CONGRATULATIONS to Kristen Zwischenberger's writers who grew from 36% writing with thesis statements (Universal ideas and connected reasons) to 92%!! What amazing progress these writers made with intentional and scaffolded instruction.

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