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Red Sun
Prophecies from around the World
Writing Well
By Leon of Leon's Planet
2000 ~ present

How to write for anything!

 I especially welcome Homeschoolers!


Introduction

Hi.  My name is Leon.  I am the webmaster and sole contributor to content on this website.  I have taught English for 25 years (mostly elementary) and those students who listen to me, and follow my instructions score very well on their writing assignments and writing tests.  No matter what you are writing for, I have a template which you can follow to get a good writing score.  To see ALL of my credentials, please click here.  

 



Table of Contents

The Writing Process What is the 'writing process'?
And, why should I follow it?
Templates These templates work for any grade level, and for any genre.
Story Hand Permission to copy granted for educational purposes.
Sample Story Map Permission to copy granted for educational purposes.
Writing for Tests CIE, IELTS, TOEIC, TOEFL, etc.

 

 

The Writing Process

As an elementary teacher (and teacher of writing) for 25 years, I am a firm believer in the 'writing process'.  It works!

You've heard the saying, "Practice makes perfect."  Well, that's not always true.  The truth is perfect practice makes perfect.  And, that's the basic philosophy behind the 'writing process'.  Also, it should be noted that professional writers follow the writing process.  Why would a student be any better than a professional writer?

What is the writing process?
This is an overview of the writing process.  I'll give details below it.

Step 1:  Pre-write (Get ideas)
Step 2:  Write (1st draft)
Step 3:  Re-write (Revise)
Step 4:  Editing (Spelling and Grammar)
Step 5:  Re-write (Final Draft)
Step 6:  Publish (deliver to an audience)

You can see that the writing process is kind of lengthy.  I would do one step per day.
Now, for the details...

Step 1:  Pre-write

The 'pre-write' stages is where writers get their ideas for writing.  As a teacher, I did this by reading either a storybook, or a piece of writing that I had written myself (in the genre of the assignment).  This gets the junior-writers' mental juices flowing and they want to write their own compositions. (Yes!  They actually get excited about writing their own compositions).  Then, we talk about the template (I have templates) for proper writing (for whichever genre we are writing).  I actually show the students how I followed the template in my writing (or in the story that I read to them).

Also, part of the pre-writing stage is making a "map" (for fiction), or an outline (for non-fiction)  for one's writing.  For writing stories (narratives), feel free to use my story map (or any story map that you can find online that has all five story elements).  For non-fiction writing (like reports), you'll have to teach your students how to make an outline.

Step 2:  Write (1st Draft)

The junior-writer writes freely, without worrying about spelling or grammar.  The idea is that one just gets one's ideas on paper in as logical a manner (following the map or outline as a guide).

Caution:  Just from personal experience, I would discourage dialogue in the stories.  I've gotten alleged "stories" from students that was 90% dialogue, with no real plot.  I'm not saying completely forbid dialogue in stories, but limit it as much as possible.  Students do have to learn how to read and write speech (using speech marks) and reported speech (which is without the speech marks); but just limit it for the sake of producing good-quality storylines.

Step 3:  Revise

This step has to be done with the guidance and supervision of a tutor/teacher.  The tutor/teacher sits down with the child and discusses the following (perhaps use this as a kind of checklist):

(1)  Did I (the writer) follow the "map" or outline in my writings?  [If not, that needs to be rectified].

(2)  Did I (the writer) provide sufficient information to the reader {Because sometimes junior-writers just assume that the reader knows stuff that they should not assume}.  [If not, that needs to be rectified].  NOTE:  Writers should assume that the reader knows nothing!

(3)  How could I (the writer) add more information to make the composition more interesting to the reader?

Then, the junior-writer re-writes the composition (or adds in the margins if the writer is giving you a hard time).

Step 4:  Editing

This step is supposed to be done in peer-groups, but I think that is inane, because the peers are not experts in editing.  So, as the teacher, I do this step entirely by myself.  (You can do it with the junior-writer present).  As the Editor, I correct all spelling and grammar issues (because everything else should be fixed by now).

Step 5:  Final Draft

This is the easiest step.  The jr-writer just re-writes the composition fixing all the spelling and grammatical errors.  Then, they get to add illustrations to go with their compositions.

Step 6:  Publishing

This the funnest step.  The junior-writer gets to present his/her work to either other readers and/or an audience.  As a teacher, we did both.  I compiled all their "perfect" compositions into a book, copied and gave each student a copy.  Then, we held "author's chair," which is when the junior-writer gets to read his/her composition to the whole class.  My students absolutely loved publishing their work.  I did it every year with my students with great success.  (Parents loved it, too!)

NOTES to Parents/Teachers:

I always tell my students beforehand all about the writing process, and I explain to the children that this process will take a long time, but in the end we will get to present our stories to an audience (or to various audiences).  This motivates the children to endure the arduous writing process.  But, in the end, they have created an original, perfect piece of literature that they can be proud of and share with whomever they want to share it.

 

 

 

 

Writing Templates
(These were created by me, Leon, after 25 years of teaching writing).

Narrative Writing
(Story Writing)
Writing a Persuasive Paper or Essay Non-fiction Writing
Writing a Report
I.  1st paragraph: SETTING
       a.  Setting (Time and Place)
              1.  TIME:  Time doesn't mean clock time (although that might be important, depending on the plot).  NO.  Rather it means, tell the reader the year and the season.  You don't have to give the exact date, unless you really want to.
              2.  Describe in detail the place.
              3.  Mention the main character.

II.  2nd paragraph: CHARACTER
       a.  Character development
              1.  Describe your main character in great detail.
              2.  You may want to describe other characters as well.

III.  PROBLEM
       a.  Every narrative must have a problem and a solution.  You will make new paragraphs only if/when the time or place changes.

IV.  SOLUTION or Resolution
       a.  If there is no solution to the problem, there must be a resolution.  A resolution is what happened as a result of the problem not being solved.  You will make new paragraphs only if/when the time or place changes.

V.  ENDING
       a.  A common fairytale ending is, "And they lived happily ever after."  However, your ending should be more creative and imaginative.

VI.  SHARE
       a.  I think it is very important to share one's work and get feedback (both positive and critique-like feedback).  We can all improve our writing skills.

SUGGESTION:
Make a Title Page
with Title
and "by ______________";
and illustrate.

I.  1st paragraph:  Introduction
       a.  Your first sentence should be an attention-getter!  It should get your reader's attention.
       b.  Introduce your topic to the reader.
       c.  Give your opinion (briefly)
       d.  Some writers may wish to hide their opinion until the end, but I suggest you don't.

II.  2nd paragraph:  Pro (support)
       a.  You must support your opinion with 2 or 3 examples (3 is better).

III.  3rd paragraph:  Con (against)
       a.  Give some of the examples which are against your opinion.

IV.  4th paragraph:  Counter Strike
       a.  Counter the "cons".  Give your reason why the cons are not correct or strong enough.

V.  5th paragraph:  Conclusion
       a.  Give your opinion (or restate your opinion.
       b.  Summarize your "pros" (support) very briefly.  (I can do this in one sentence).

VI.  Sources
       a.  For this style of writing, MLA format is used to document one's sources of information.  
       b.  For younger learners, just have them make a list of their resources/sources at the end of the document.  It would be good for them to get into the habit of documenting sources, because plagiarism is taken very seriously in upper grades.
       c.  As to how many different sources are required, that is entirely up to the teacher or professor.  When I'm writing for myself, it takes as many as it takes to get the point across.  The general rule is:  the more sources the better.

 

I.  1st paragraph:  Introduction
       a.  Maybe start with an attention-getter.  (I really like to do this, but it is not a requirement).
       b.  TELL THEM WHAT YOU'RE GOING TO TELL THEM.  (Give a brief introduction to what you will cover in your report).

II.  Body
       a.  TELL THEM.  This will take several paragraphs or possibly even several pages (depending upon which grade you are in).  Each paragraph will deal with a certain aspect of the topic you have chosen.  (For upper grades, make sure you are following APA format, to document your sources along the way.)

III.  Summary
       a.  TELL THEM WHAT YOU JUST TOLD THEM.  Give a brief summary of all that you just wrote in the body.  I can usually do this in two or three sentences.

IV.  Sources
       a. With Non-fiction writing, the writer is usually asked to provide sources of information used in the author's writing, so as to not be accused of plagiarism.
       b. RE:  "Bibliography"
The word "bibliography" has fallen out of use, because the word "biblio" means book in Greek and nowadays, most sources of information don't even come from books.
       c.  RE:  Resources
The words "resources" and "sources" are used pretty-much interchangeably.  Personally, I'm partial to using "Sources", but ask your teacher/professor which one he/she prefers.
       d.  For this style of writing, use APA format for documenting sources
       e.  For younger learners, just have them make a list of their sources at the end of the document under the heading "Sources".  It's good to get into the habit of citing sources at a young age.

Important:  Paragraphs must be "connected" with connecting phrases as well, as best as one can.


 

 

 

Story Hand
This is called "The Story Hand".  Feel free to copy.  Make a poster of it.
I would have it posted in every classroom around the world to remind students of the 5 elements of a story.
If it doesn't have all five elements, it's not a complete story.


 

 

 

Story Map


 

How to Use the Story Map

RE:  Name and Date
I like all of my students to get into the habit of writing their name and date on everything (unless you are using a workbook;  in that case the name should be on the book).  This will be a VERY useful habit in your child's / pupil's future.

RE:  Title
I really encourage my students to do the title last (even though its at the top).  Because you want a captivating title that both matches the story and will catch the attention of potential readers.

RE:  Setting
Every first paragraph should start with the setting and a brief introduction of the main character(s).  The writer should develop those characters in the second paragraph.  I used to put "Time and Place" for the setting and I got things like 5 o'clock at my house.  So, I learned to be more specific as to what is wanted in a setting.

RE:  Character Development
Students are (unfortunately) not born with the innate knowledge on how to develop their characters, so I had to be specific.  If they want to add more, great!  Certainly, older students should add more.

RE:  Plot
BE WARNED... beginners at using story maps will try to fit the entire plot into those two little boxes.  Tell them that they get one or two sentences (max) for each box, to briefly describe the problem and solution.  In the first draft, it will take multiple paragraphs.  A new paragraph is started whenever the time or place changes (but they don't need to worry about paragraphs when writing the first draft).

RE:  Ending
BE WARNED... beginners will like to end their story with "The End".  That's fine, but it's not what is wanted for the ending.  The ending is what happens after the solution.  Say, the main characters defeat the monster.  Well, great!  Then, what?  Did they have a party to celebrate?  Did they go home and go straight to bed because they were so tired?  What?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Writing for Tests

Common English Writing Exams

CIE

According to CIE (Cambridge International Examinations), which include CIPP, Checkpoint, and IGCSE; markers are looking for:

Narrative (Fiction) Non-fiction
Content 4pts Text Structure 4 pts
Style 4pts Sentence Structure 4pts
Vocab 3pts Audience 3pts
Audience 3pts Purpose 4pts
Text Structure 4pts    
Spelling 2pts    
Total 20pts Total 15pts

This  is especially true for CIPP.

 

TOEFL

According to TOEFL, markers are looking for: (1) development, (2) organization, (3) appropriate and precise use of grammar and (4) appropriate and precise use of vocabulary.  Scores are given for each category.

Score of Six (Highest Score)

An essay at this level:

- shows effective writing skills
- is well organized and well developed
- uses details clearly and properly to support a thesis or illustrate ideas
- displays consistent ability in the use of language
- demonstrates variety in sentence structure and proper word choice

 

IELTS

According to IELTS, markers are looking for: (1) Task Achievement, (2) Coherence and Cohesion, (3) Lexical Resource and (4) Grammatical Range and Accuracy.  The four criteria are equally weighted.

Task 1 Task 2
Task
Achieve-
ment
9pts Task Response 9pts
Coherence
&
Cohesion
9pts Coherence
&
Cohesion
9pts
Lexical Resource 9pts Lexical Resource 9pts
Grammatical Range & Accuracy 9pts Grammatical Range & Accuracy 9pts
Raw Score 36pts Raw Score 36pts
Average Band Score 9pts Average Band Score 9pts

DEFINITIONS

Terms Definitions
Task Achievement & Task Response Did you do the RIGHT task?  Did you complete the task?
Coherence and Cohesion See 'Cohesiveness' below.
Lexical Resource Use extensive Vocabulary
Grammatical Range Extensive Grammar knowledge and use
Grammatical Accuracy Proper usage of English grammar
Styles Styles of writing include the following:

- informative (give information, like news)
- persuasive (convince your reader to agree with you)
- narrative (story, fiction)
- artistic (poetry or prose)

These are explained in detail below

Registers Registers of writing include the following:

- formal / informal
- technical / non-technical
- academic / non-academic

These are explained in detail below

Cohesiveness Cohesiveness [I coined this term, 2003] = Cohesion + Coherence

Cohesion = (on linguistic level) grammatical & lexical relationships within a text.

Coherence = (on semantic level) making a text completely comprehensible, and easily so.

Note:  all styles and registers require cohesiveness.

EXAMPLES: 

 
Styles

     1.  Informative:  like the news, just giving information.  This is also called expository style.

     2.  Persuasive:  trying to convince one's reader that your idea is superior to other ideas.  This requires:

            a.  at least two points, given in the introductory paragraph

            b.  at least two supporting "evidences" for each point

            c.  a short summary of the points.

     3.  Narrative:  writing a story.  All stories must have:

            a.  Setting (time & place).  The setting must be elucidated at the beginning of a narrative

            b.  Plot (problem, solution).  After the solution to the problem, the narrative can have a cute, terse ending.

     4.  Artistic:  like prose and poetry.

 

 
Registers

     1.  Formal.  This register requires:

            a.  no use of slang

            b.  avoidance of idiomatic expressions and phrasal verbs (as much as possible).  It is 99.9% possible, but you may not know how to do it, so, I say, "As much as you possibly can."

            c.  avoidance of literary forms, such as hyperbole, alliteration, apostrophe, sarcasm, irony, etc.

     2.  Informal.  This register allows:

            a.  use of slang

            b.  use of idiomatic expressions and phrasal verbs

            c.  use of literary forms, such as hyperbole, alliteration, apostrophe, sarcasm, irony, etc.

     3.  Technical.  This register requires:

            a.  use of formal register

            b.  use of proper nomenclature/terminology (of the technical field that applies)

     4.  Non-technical.  This register allows:

            a.  use of informal register

            b.  use of lay-persons' terminology

     5.  Academic.  This register requires:

            a.  use of formal register

            b.  avoidance of active voice as much as possible; use of passive voice as much as possible.

            c.  avoidance of contractions

            d.  avoidance of absolute statements that cannot be substantiated.

     6.  Non-academic.  This register allows:

            a.  use of informal register

            b.  either voice (active or passive)

            c.  contractions

            d.  hyperbole or generalizations

 

 
Cohesiveness [Leon Priz, 2003]

Cohesiveness is composed of two things:  cohesion and coherence

COHESIVENESS
|
------------------------
|                             |
COHESION            COHERENCE

DEFINITIONS:

1.  COHESIVENESS [Me, 2003]:  Cohesiveness includes both cohesion and coherence

2.  COHESION:  linguistically "sticking" words, sentences, and paragraphs together, logically.

          [linguistically means grammatically and lexically]

3.  COHERENCE:  semantically "sticking" words, sentences, and paragraphs together, logically.

          [semantically means meaningfully]

 

EXAMPLES:

First, let me deal with cohesion.

Please look at the following paragraph:

Frogs are amphibians.  Giraffes are mammals.  It is green with brown spots.  They live in Africa.

That example lacks cohesion for several reasons:

- Cohesion Problem 1:  Why is the author writing about amphibians AND mammals in the same text?  There is no linguistic devices to "tie" or "connect" the two together.

- Cohesion Problem 2:  In the third sentence, the pronoun "it" is used, but we have no idea what "it" might refer to.

- Cohesion Problem 3:  In the fourth sentence, the pronoun "they" is used, but we don't know if it is referring to frogs or giraffes.

Sample Correction:

There two kinds of animals that shall be discussed in this text.  One kind is amphibian, and the other kind is mammal.  An example of an amphibian is a frog.  An example of a mammal is a giraffe.  Both frogs and giraffes have spots; and thus, they are not in different categories because of their appearance.  Both frogs and giraffes live in Africa, so they are not categorized differently because of region.... etc.

Ah!  Now we have cohesion (and coherence)!

According to Halliday & Hasan (1976) as reported by Carrel (1982) in TESOL QUARTERLY, coherence comes only as a result of proper register and proper cohesion.  Carrel is quick to point out that it's not so simple (and she quotes a lot of other famous researchers).

Let's K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Silly)

For simplification, I like to explain it in terms of...

(1) sentence structure 

(2) paragraph structure, and

(3) textual structure.

 

First:  Sentence structure
Sentence structure includes syntax, clauses, and phrases, such as noun phrases, verb phrases, adverbial phrases, and prepositional phrases.  This is commonly called "grammar".

Second:  Paragraph structure
Paragraph structure is different for narratives.  I will not discuss narratives here.  For non-fictions texts, paragraph structure includes a topic sentence that is supported by two or more sentences.  The sentences must be linked together with connectives (conjunctions).

Third:  Textual structure
Textual structure is all about linking paragraphs together and putting paragraphs in logical order.  Here is the pattern that you should follow when writing a narrative or a non-fiction article.

SAMPLES Prepare for ORAL EXAMS Pronunciation

Sample Essays

Oral Exams (Interviews)

Pronunciation  / Intonation

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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