Writing Wednesdays - Start with Vocabulary!

I'm excited to link-up with Lyndsey from Lit with Lyns to explore writing strategies!

When I begin to teach a specific type of writing, I always start with the relevant vocabulary.  I want to think that a middle schooler would know what "evidence" is but I almost always discover that I'm only maybe 1/2 right.  ;)  And since there's so sense in talking about how to cite evidence when some students don't even know what evidence is, we have to start with the critical content of definitions.

So let's take Argumentative Writing, for example.  There are many terms like claim, opposing claim, counter-claim, evidence (both relevant and irrelevant), reasoning, logos, pathos, ethos, purpose and audience that students need to be familiar with and I would like them to become part of their notebooks so that these words can be referred to over and over.  

And, since research says that visuals improve comprehension and increase retention, I created Pixanotes!

Pixanotes are a blend of traditional two-column notes and interactive notebooks.   They come in FOUR formats to help you differentiate the content more easily:

1.  The most scaffolding:  Fully printed content and pictures. (Students highlight key words and color pictures.)
2.  A little less scaffolding:  Fully printed content and picture flaps (Students highlight key words and match up pictures.)
3.  Even less scaffolding:  Fill-in-the-blanks for content and fully printed pictures. (Students use a word bank.)
4.  The least scaffolding:  Fill-in-the-blanks for content and picture flaps. (Students use a word bank and match up pictures.)

Pixanotes are perfect for differentiating Language Arts content in your Middle School Classroom!  #teaching #pixanotes #interactivenotebook #notes

To use the fill-in-the-blanks with my class, I put a word bank on the board and allow students to work with a partner and a dictionary.  Then students are asked to cut out the picture flaps and match them to the definitions.  Once I have checked that their flaps are in the correct locations, then they are allowed to glue them in.

Next, students need to practice with their new concepts, so I added a matching dominoes game!

Students worked with partners to match the visual cues to the correct terms.  First, they used their notes to work with the dominoes, then notes were put away and a friendly competition ensued to see which team could finish first!

Pixanotes were a hit!  All of my students, including those with special needs or limited English, experienced success with them.  Plus, they loved the "hands-on" experience.

I loved that we were all on the same page before we began the process of learning the organization of argumentative essays! 

Next time, I'll share how I teach organization!  Until then, thanks for stopping by!


  1. What a great idea to offer students notes so they can learn and apply new terms. That is also an awesome use of their working memory - which acts like a sticky note in the front of their brains as they apply new ideas to learn them better. Your Pixanotes are a great support for their writing here and thanks! Ellen

  2. I'm glad to see that you are able to incorporate scaffolded instruction with your middle school students- much like we do in the elementary grades. I'm sure your students are able grasp the content and remember what they are being taught much easier! I love this idea and thanks for sharing!!

  3. I love the Pixanotes Dominoes!! Great idea for giving students a fun way to practice vocabulary.


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