Informational Writing: My Messy Process

Since attending a summer writing workshop, I’ve been trying to write more informational pieces. I discovered that my process for writing expository text was all over the place. For me, it was very different from writing a narrative, or a vignette, or a poem. Writing about a memory or a moment in time seemed easier. My thought was if I kept writing informational pieces, eventually it wouldn’t feel so hard. I wanted to write an informational piece for this week’s slice but I couldn’t seem to zero in on a topic.  For example, this slice started out seven different ways. It started as a piece about collaboration, then coaching, then my upcoming PLC, then back to coaching, then literacy celebrations, then writer’s notebooks, and then back to coaching again. Purpose and audience were screaming at me, distracting me. For Pete’s sake! Focus, for crying out loud! Some of my topics were geared more to a particular audience. Audience influenced what I wanted to write about. So was I trying to choose a topic or an audience? And in choosing an audience, how would I write about my topic? I needed to determine the purpose for what I wanted to write.

In an effort to organize my jumbled thinking, I made a map of my ideas on my dining room floor. My big ideas were audiences, purposes, and topics. Under Audiences, I listed who I wrote for, other than myself, and where my writing would be published. Under Purposes I listed all the reasons I liked to write. I didn’t have anything under topic yet. With the Tuesday SOL deadline looming, I picked cards from my audience and purpose categories which finally helped me to choose my topic. There . . . now wasn’t that easy! Uhhmm, no. At least audience and purpose stopped screaming at me.

Fred decided to help me out.
Roxy joined in the effort to help me
figure out my topic.

Starting with audience and purpose helped
me narrow my topic.

My husband looked at me and said, "You're not
gonna leave that all over the floor are you?"


  1. I like your process and your helpers! You have me thinking I need to pick up some sticky notes and do some mapping of my own.

  2. The notes are a great idea. Looks like your friends helped you pull through!

  3. You have demonstrated a process that could be modeled so easily for students. I like the way you walked us through each part and the ending was the best! Loved the photos, what pretty helpers and they also serve as foot warmers. Can't ask for more than that.

  4. I was thinking along the same line as the other people who commented. I want to steal your idea of the cards to use with my students. Last year I got a sample of 3X5 cards with some sticky stuff at the top. I wonder if our stores carry it?

    I liked your piece and especially enjoyed your pictures. They tell a story of their own

  5. It's a terrific description of the angst we all experience, and I imagine that students would love to hear about it too. You made me wonder about how many times I've said to students to "just get going". I think I didn't always understand how hard it was to do that. Great post for me to share with the teachers to help them understand. The pics make it fun, especially with that capper from your husband.

  6. I loved your thought process too -- and the cards were a perfect mapping agent. This would be a wonderful lesson to share with young writers. First of all, we all struggle with the writing process. We are all working towards improved quality and effective communication. I enjoyed reading about your struggles today because it sure helped clarify many things for me! (And your helpers are adorably snuggly!)

  7. I agree about the process that you share and see what happens when you get some help?

  8. Love that first picture - Fred seems very decisive in his topic picking. Unlike the rest of us!

  9. I would love for students to see your visual - and your helpers. You've written about something I started thinking about too - I have a few key questions I've started asking myself when I write - who is my audience, what is a core statement I want to express, and then its process: write - illuminate - pare it down - focus - start again.


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