Reflection: Complex Tasks Helping Students Establish A Central, Controlling Idea In Writing - Section 5: Independent Work


What I hoped to see in student papers was something like these two student’s thesis statement and topic sentences. Although the first student’s thesis statement still does not make it clear whether the student agrees or disagrees with the stated belief, which I explicitly asked them to do, the student’s idea of emerging “fully as a human” is very nice and fulfills a central goal in this series of lessons, which is to think conceptually. This second student’s thesis statement is even better. It states a perspective and argues a profound idea, that human nature is faulty. When looking at these two papers, I faced something that I face once in a while when implementing a highly scaffolded lesson, which is that there are places where I need to let up on the tight structure. Specifically, I should have given students the option of establishing a controlling idea in more than one sentence. The second student I just discussed followed the directions I gave them, has very good control of language and still, he had a difficult time writing a single sentence as a topic sentence. Still, these papers are a great start. The other papers suffered from multiple inconsistencies, which boil down to the struggle with a text that is incredibly advanced for their skills. Some thesis statements used very simple vocabulary, which makes it difficult to communicate Emerson’s complex ideas. An example is the following sentence:

Every person needs to try hard for them to survive and they need to stop being jealous and move on with their life.

Others communicated conceptual ideas that were more sophisticated than this one, but part of it is still very basic and inaccurate. For instance, in the following sentence the student uses the word “rebel,” a word that does not capture Emerson’s idea of a nonconformist, but does establish an interesting idea, that it “keeps you from losing yourself.”

When you work hard for who you want to be you become a rebel, which keeps you from losing yourself.

These sentences do reveal a certain level of understanding of Emerson’s ideas, which I think is important. Their inconsistent control of language and inexperience with conceptual thinking continues to be an area I need to work on with them.

  Complex Tasks: Re-teaching Will Definitely Be Needed In the Future
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Helping Students Establish A Central, Controlling Idea In Writing

Unit 13: Transcendentalism
Lesson 8 of 13

Objective: SWBAT establish a central, controlling idea by engaging in exercises to help them think conceptually.

Big Idea: Stepping into the abstract is new territory for both of us.

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