Silly me. I thought many of my students would know how to write a five-paragraph essay, but boy was I wrong. Since our school received the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Grant to improve the quality of education, we are required to test the students 4 times throughout the year. Well, the second assessment was given and after reading the written parts, I realized the majority of my students didn't know how to write a 5-paragraph essay.
The topic they were given was about standardized test. Are they good or bad? So, I started with the basics. I told them before they can write, they need to plan. I told them this will help them with their writing. The first thing we did was created 2 columns. One for the pros (good) and the other for the cons (bad). I told them whenever they are required to write a paper, this is what they should do first. Depending upon the number of paragraphs required, they should have that same number of items listed. For example, if you need a 10-paragraph paper, you will need at least 8 pros and 8 cons (the first paragraph is the introductory paragraph and the last is the concluding paragraph). If they can't think of that many for both, it is a good idea to argue/present based on the side they have the most evidence for, even if they don't agree with it.
Once we did that, I had them to use a graphic organizer similar to the picture.
The circle is where they should list their subtopic. Everything they listed under the pros or cons. On the web extenders, they should write down what they want to say about the topic. For example, if the subtopic is: Test are a waste of time. I would put that in the circle. In the extenders, I would list all of the reasons for stating that. Many of them understood this concept. After they have listed their reasons in the extensions, those serve as the basis for their sentences. One student I'll call "Jack" said to me "It's that simple?" I replied "Yep, just like that. Depending on how many parapgraphs you need to write, that determines how many of the little webs you need." That comment made my heart leap. I was so elated that someone finally got it.
After we went through that, I showed them how to state their position without restating the prompt. I want them to become skilled writers and I explained to them restating the prompt is not bad, nonetheless, they are high school sophomores and we are going to prove to people that we know how to write like we are going to go to college. I also told them that all of their essays should have an attention grabber to get the readers attention. If everyone starts out with "In my opinion" or "I believe that" and my all time favorite "Yes, or No and then restate the prompt", they have not captured my attention.
I worked with a few of them on an individual basis and they seemed to be progressing well. I am excited about reading their revised essays on Monday.
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