Team Teaching with Dr. Louis: Introducing the Terms and Color-Coding of the Jane Schaffer Academic Writing Program®


Dr. Louis provides a flipped introduction to students regarding the color-coded JSWP terminology of writing an academic body paragraph for the Expository/Informational mode of discourse.

Options for Implementation:

  • Watch the video and teach the lesson yourself.
  • Team teach with Dr. Louis. You teach, she teaches, it’s a collaboration!
  • Great for absent students to view and follow when they return to class.

CAUTION: Only teachers, not technology, can guide students through the thinking process of writing. So, please understand that this video series provides students with what we do in the first hour of our six-hour professional development. To assist teachers, this series is designed as a flipped approach to teaching the JSWP colors and terminology. Its purpose, like all good flipped instruction, is to introduce students to the learning material before class, with classroom time then being used to deepen understanding through the steps in the thinking and writing process using our graphic organizers. Teachers are critical to the next steps in the process, but let Dr. Louis take off the load and save you some class time by teaching the first step: common terminology and color-coding. See below for more information.

Subscription Length: 1 Calendar Year


Each video is 8-13 minutes in length.

Even if a teacher or home school parent would like to begin with Response to Literature, the Personal or Fictional Narrative, or Argumentation, this first student-centered video will provide the key terms and colors that start the process of yielding increased skills and scores in student writing.

Once students know the colors and terms, the thinking and learning, adapting and differentiation occur with the teaching of the HOW of writing (found in our guides, in our workshops and webinars, and in our self-paced digital programs):

  • Gathering CDs (teaching students how to gather and evaluate specific, relevant, and appropriate evidence)
  • The T-Chart (teaching students how to embed quotations, generate commentary, revise the topic sentence, and compose a concluding sentence)
  • WOW charts (teaching vocabulary development, denotation, connotation, authentic writing, voice)
  • Shaping Sheet (teaching students how to effectively edit, proof, and revise for grammar, usage, syntax, style, and voice)
  • Introduction (teaching students how to build an introduction with a thesis statement)
  • Conclusion (teaching students how to build a reflective and stimulating conclusion)

Introduction and Topic Sentence

To introduce the terminology, Dr. Louis recommends that you download the two files and print them. As she works through the next several videos, students will copy the model body paragraph onto “expository paragraph form” and take notes on the “Expository Terminology” handout.

Dr. Louis begins with the importance of associating different colors with different functions of sentences in a body paragraph. Then, Dr. Louis discusses the importance of indenting. The main skill to learn in this video, however, is that an academic body paragraph begins with a topic sentence, the first sentence in a body paragraph. For literary analysis and personal narrative, the TS includes the subject of the paragraph and the writer’s opinion (commentary). For argumentation and expository/informational, the TS includes the subject of the paragraph, but, depending on the assignment, what follows might include something other than commentary. The TS does the same thing for a body paragraph that the thesis does for the whole essay.

Relevant Concrete Details

Also known as CD, specific details that form the backbone or core of your body paragraphs. Synonyms for concrete details include facts, specifics, examples, descriptions, illustrations, support, proof, evidence, quotations, paraphrasing, or plot references. A concrete detail is one complete sentence. Concrete details come from four places: “What I have read,” “What I have seen,” What I or someone has done; what I or someone has said. Just because someone says something does not make it a fact. What someone says may be used as evidence/concrete detail, but make sure that the evidence you select is relevant, specific, and appropriate to the task. Dr. Louis recommends that evidence be pulled from credible, reliable sources. Wikipedia is not acceptable, because anyone with an opinion can write in Wikipedia. Just because a person has an opinion does not make that person an expert. Be careful. Look in databases, such as Gale Research, Google Scholar, Newsela. Libraries have wonderful sources. 

Insightful Commentary

Also known as a CM, one commentary equals one sentence. It is your opinion or comment about something; not concrete detail. Synonyms include opinion, insight, analysis, interpretation, inference, personal response, feelings, evaluation, explication, and reflection. Commentary comes from three places: my analytical mind; my heart and soul; my gut feelings/instincts/intuition . . . and a little wiggle!

Concluding Sentence

The last sentence in a body paragraph. For literary responses, the CS is all commentary; for expository and summary paragraphs, it depends on the assignment or purpose of the piece and may include concrete detail, such as: predictions, connections, inferences, clarifications, and evaluations. For argumentation, the CS is all CM. The writer synthesizes the thesis statement, TS, CDs, CM into a re-assertion of the position. Do not repeat key words from the paragraph. Rather, use synonyms. For advanced writers, the concluding sentence synthesizes the salient points of the paragraph while also providing a finished feeling to the body paragraph’s topic.

The Chunk and the Ratio

The Chunk: It is the smallest unified group of thoughts in a paragraph that combine CDs and CMs. The combination depends on the RATIO for each mode. A paragraph may have multiple “chunks.”

The Ratio of concrete detail (CD) to commentary (CM).

Typically, for Response to Literature, Fine Art interpretation, and/or Style Analysis, the ratio is (1:2+): one sentence of concrete detail plus two or more sentences of commentary equals one “chunk.” Typically, for Narrative, Persuasive, Argumentation, and/or Expository, the ratio is (2+:1): two or more sentences of concrete details plus one commentary sentence equals one “chunk.” For summary, typically (3+:0).

Remember — The Jane Schaffer Academic Writing Program has been a popular writing program because it helps students to understand the framework for writing academic paragraphs and essays. Much like a recipe for chefs or scales for aspiring musicians, the foundation is laid and then we train students to add their own spices or create their own rhythm. This program works for on-level students, pre-ap students, advanced placement students, special ed students, English language learners. Why? Because it is a guide. And young writers need a guide before they can become masters.

Deborah E. Louis, Ph.D.

Dr. Deborah E. Louis’ passion for educational excellence began as a classroom teacher. For sixteen years, Deborah taught On-level, Pre-AP®, and Advanced Placement® English Language Arts to secondary students of diverse ethnicities and learning styles. In 2010, Deborah purchased the Jane Schaffer Writing Program®, and along with her non-profit organization, Center for Educational ReVision (CerV®), her goal and that of her national team of experts is to provide the highest quality professional learning and mentoring to teachers in the areas of writing, advanced academics, high-stakes testing, and educational technology. Through webinars, workshops, job-embedded training, and teaching materials, Deborah strives to ReVision the educational system, combining traditional and flipped approaches to professional learning for teachers of grades K-12; and differentiating for Special Education, English Language Learners, and Gifted and Talented. Although her mission takes her all over the United States and abroad, Deborah lives in Dallas, Texas USA. She loves music, dancing, archetypal psychology, and continuous learning opportunities.

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