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!

Looking for a great way to begin your argumentative essay unit?  Use Pixanotes to introduce critical content vocabulary!

Pixanotes are a modified form of Cornell Notes with fill-in-the-blanks for critical content and picture "flaps" to represent key ideas.  (Pixanotes are also fully differentiated with notes pages that do not have blanks so students can highlight specific words instead as well as notes pages with various picture options too!) 

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!

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