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Session Introduction & Purpose

Writers Exploring Curiosity and Explanation: Generating Deep Ideas, by Jeff Anderson, is a professional development session that supports writing instruction in all content areas.  It is designed to engage educators in:

  • thinking about the role of curiosity in the writing process
  • using mentor texts to identify and demonstrate stylistic devices
  • developing ideas before writing through the Classical Invention questioning technique

This session is intended to deepen teacher knowledge and may be adapted through the use of different texts, time allotted, and previous classroom instruction.  Educators are encouraged to examine each strategy and determine the best ways to use each one along with other instructional routines to best meet the needs of students in his/her classroom.

You may view the presentation in its entirety by following the left-hand menu sections (1 through 4) in sequence.  Within each section, the video segments have been arranged for viewers to watch in order. 

Participant materials referenced throughout the presentation are available for download by clicking the green button. The sample texts were selected for the purposes of the presentation and an audience of educators.  They may be used with students if appropriate.  You may wish to print copies for quick access as you view the presentation and engage with the interactive activities. 

Participant Handouts


Some activities involve partner or group interaction.  If you are watching the session alone, please use these opportunities to make notes and reflections in a teaching journal. 


The presentation begins with "Section 1" in the left-hand menu. 


This version of the presentation is an initial release and will continue to be refined for various audiences and professional development uses.

Section 1

Curiosity & Engaging Readers

In this section, Jeff Anderson discusses how tapping into students' innate sense of curiosity makes expository/explanatory text more accessible to them as readers and writers.  Anderson explains how curiosity is a natural part of the writing process; similar to how scientists and mathematicians notice patterns, writers rely on recursive processes to generate and convey ideas.  Through examination of a sample text, Two-Minute Entreaty, Anderson draws connections among the topics of curiosity, patterns, and the way writers use stylistic devices to explain concepts. 


Watch the first video segment to see Jeff Anderson's welcome and brainstorm "things you are curious about."


Continue with the next video segment where Jeff Anderson discusses using interest for explanation.


Before viewing the next video, read and think about stylistic devices used in the Anthony Doerr text (Handout 1).  Then view Jeff Anderson's discussion of the author's techniques in the sample text.



Reflections: Think about a text you could use in your content area and with your students that would engage them to notice stylistic elements.  How can you help students connect interest and curiosity with explanation?


The presentation continues with "Section 2" in the left-hand menu.

Section 2

Using Mentor Text

In this section, Jeff Anderson introduces a discussion of various stylistic devices that authors use in expository/explanatory writing.  Using a mentor text, participants are challenged to observe and notice like a scientist (or writer) may do when reading a text:

  1. What is the author doing to explain?
  2. What text structures and devices are used? 

Through the participant activities, Anderson models strategies that teachers can use with their own students and with various text types in all content areas. Reading, noticing devices and structures, and engaging in discussion to undersand how authors explain empowers students to use various strategies in their own writing.

Watch the video segment to hear how the scientific method can be applied in examining writing.  Reading to observe and notice helps readers identify the styles and structures authors use to explain.


Before watching the next video, read the excerpt by Steve Jenkins (Handout 2) and notice what techniques the author uses to explain different skeletal systems.  Then, in the next segment, watch Jeff Anderson's discussion of how authors use various stylistic devices. 


Reflections: What scaffolding and background information do your students need before examining text for author's style and identifying text structures?


Additional Resources: Participants may wish to view the Common Text Structures handout available from the "Reading Like a Writer: Text Types" section of the Write for Texas resource Using Reading and Writing to Support Learning.  This resource contains further information about text types as discussed by Jeff Anderson including:

  • Concept & Definition
  • Sequence
  • Compare & Contrast
  • Cause & Effect
  • Problem & Solution



The presentation continues with "Section 3" in the left-hand menu.

Section 3

Pre-writing Strategy: Classical Invention

In this section, Jeff Anderson presents Classical Invention, a strategy for helping generate ideas for writing.  The series of questions in Classical Invention taps into students' innate sense of curiosity and, when used during pre-writing, helps students approach writing expository text. 

Classical invention engages students in brainstorming a single topic by answering questions from a variety of perspectives (definition, comparison, relationship, circumstance, testimony). Through the process of questioning and thinking about a topic, a student can identify the angle(s) he/she wishes to take in the development of a written piece. The strategy can be applied across content areas as a means of deepening thoughts about a particular topic and generating ideas for future writing.   

Classical Invention (Handout 3) is a strategy in multiple parts:

  • Definition
  • Comparison
  • Relationship
  • Circumstance
  • Testimony
Watch the following two video segments to see Jeff Anderson draw connections between experimenting and pre-writing, and see him model the Classical Invention strategy.  In the first video, Anderson introduces Classical Invention and demonstrates the series of questions for "Definition."


Before watching the next video, practice answering the series of questions in "Definition" using a topic of your choice. 


Reflections: Think of a topic in your content area that you might use to model Classical Invention with a class.  Which part of the strategy (definition, comparison, relationship, circumstance, testimony) will you use to demonstrate? How will this technique help your students during the pre-writing process?

The presentation continues with "Section 4" in the left-hand menu.

Section 4

Classroom Application

In this section, Jeff Anderson describes the impact of Classical Invention as a pre-writing strategy that helps writers discover and uncover deeper thinking, which is exactly what teachers want to do with students in their classrooms.  He also addresses questions about ways to introduce the strategy to students, how to support them as they graple with the process, and inspire them to move from pre-writing to drafting. 

After you have completed the Classical Invention activity using your topic of choice, watch the final video to hear Jeff Anderson's suggestions for implementing Classical Invention in the classroom. 



Reflections: How does Classical Invention help students access explanatory writing across all content areas? Which of the suggested implementation strategies (pick a question from each category, roll the cube, cut-out-cards) will you use to introduce Classical Invention in your classroom?  


This concludes Jeff Anderson's presentation.