At the start of the hour, I ask students to make a list of all the elements that go into a good persuasive essay. I take attendance while they start, and then I pass out chalk to at least 10 students. I ask those students to write something from their list (which now serves as a safety net for their sharing) on the board. Then I ask for volunteers to add anything missing. With a now full chalkboard, I read off the results and help students make connections between different phrases with the same meaning.
Details, facts, quotes, proof--what could we call all these?
"Aren't the last three all part of details?" Yes!
Sentences, paragraphs--indeed, an essay is more than a word.
Claim--what else might you know that as (especially students new to our school and language)?
And on we go.
This activity allows me to see how much students remember about basic essay terminology and what vocabulary is shared (and what is not). It also prepares the students for the day's essay work.
I introduce this activity by explaining that I sometimes find it helpful to think of concepts in a new way, such as comparing a concept to unrelated items. A horse, for example, is like the wind to me; my dog is a cuddly teddy bear; and, on a different note, my pile of papers to grade is sometimes a monster waiting to attack (student laughter at this). This allows me to make better connections in memory or reconsider how to best approach a problem. The wind, for example, can't be contained, just as I cannot hope to overpower my 1000 pound horse. I then segue into academics by offering my circus tent metaphor for the perfect essay, included as a resource in this section.
After running through my metaphor, I challenge students to best me. We review the list of required elements on the assignment sheet, and I stress that reasoning is most important--the metaphor must make sense. I allow them to choose their own groups of 3-4 to create their visual metaphors, allowing 20 minutes for completion.
While students work, I stay on my feet to offer advice and ensure engagement. I also make sure groups have situated themselves for successful collaboration (seated so that all members can see one another rather than in a line).
Students first discuss and plan their visual metaphors on notebook paper, but they create their final metaphors on large poster paper or their iPads (which can be projected onto our large screen) so the whole class can easily see the work.
When time is "up," I ask groups to find another group for a showdown. They present their metaphors to one another and then nominate one metaphor to continue on to final judging. This saves time and allows students to practice their presentation before standing in front of the class.
The bell rings before our final vote, so whole class presentations and final evaluation must wait for another day.