My sophomores speak bravely and write meekly. Today, we discuss the essay "Reclaiming Our Home Place" by Maya Angelou.
Angelou, Maya. “Reclaiming Our Home Place” Resources for Teaching: Remix, Reading Composing Culture. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2006. 135-138. Print.
I can't think of anyone better to spark a discussion on the power of words and create a safe space for reflection on writing.
Class begins with me asking them "Why are words important?" from the powerpoint reclaiming your home place I am looking for answers like "It's how we talk." and "important things are said in words."
The brief discussion leads to a short youtube video of Maya Angelou talking about the power the words. Unfortunately, it is contextualize by Oprah, so the students have to work around her position to find their own thought on words (SL 9-10. 2).
I ask them to consider, "What does Maya Angelou call words?" and "Do words have tangible value?"
The writing skills for this unit focus on developing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience (W9-10.4) At this point, I expect my students to support their claims with evidence from the text. After assessing the responses to the last writing prompt, I realize that I need to help my students see their writing through my eyes. I do not want to lower the expectation I want to raise the quality of the students' writing.
In this section we review the prompt on assimilation from the previous writing assignment. I ask them to break down the prompt in to exactly what they have to write.
I color code on the Smartboard the key information the students need to cover in their response. By color coding the parts of the prompt, students can recognize that each section is distinct and necessary. It keeps the sections form blending together. I hope that the students also point out that the response is based on their opinion. However I would point out that an unsupported opinion has no credibility.
Next, I put up the first example of student writing.
We read the response as a class. Then I ask a student to underline each of the necessary elements using the same colors to distinguish each section of the response (W 9-10.5) .
Next, we discuss what is missing from the response and how it could be improved. The process is repeated with two additional student examples. It has been my experience that students are harsher critics than I am.
Now we transition from their last writing assignment to their next short writing. The next activity will focus on writing appropriate to purpose and audience. I want to take a quick moment to review audience and purpose with the class. Every reading I give them, the students identify the purpose, audience and context as part of their homework. I review with them the formula for writing a purpose statement: Author wants to (verb of purpose) + audience + message.
Working in groups, they discuss the audience and purpose for "Reclaiming Our Home Place." I give them a little hint to check out the title for information regarding audience. Angelou writing is so succinct and engaging, it is a natural fit for identifying audience and purpose. I ask them to write a purpose statement for the essay (RI 9-10.6).
For the essay "Reclaiming Our Home Place" a purpose statement should look like this:
Maya Angelou wants to inform African-Americans about opportunities in the south to get in touch with where they are from and connect to their ancestors.
With this knowledge, the students are ready to move onto the writing assignment.
Now that we have reviewed student writing that was not the most stellar example of clear and coherent writing. I want to give the students an opportunity to try again. I give them the following prompt about "Reclaiming Our Home Place."
I identify for the students the three sections of the prompt and I ask them to write a short essay that responds to the prompt. I tell them they have 15 minutes to write their answer.
While the students are writing I pass out highlighters to each table. After the fifteen minutes are up, I tell the students to to trade papers. They have already practiced identifying sections of their own essay. Now I want to see if they can find it in their peers' essay. It is an opportunity to practice giving and receiving constructive criticism(W 9-10. 5).
I call on a student to read the first part of the prompt: what evidence does Angelou state in her essay to identify “history’s shame” and “a past rooted in pain”? Part one asks the students to cite evidence from the text (W 9-10.2b).
I then direct the students to read their partner's paper and highlight the section that answers part one of the prompt. I also tell them to check for in-text citations. I repeat the process for the second section which also asks students to cite evidence from the text. Finally, the repeat the process for the third part of the prompt. Part three asks them to make an inference and support it with evidence.
Then they return the papers to their owners. I tell the students to look at the highlights, do they have claims and evidence for each part of the prompt. Since the sections are highlighted, they can quickly identify their strengths and weaknesses in this essay (W.9-10.5).
Finally, I ask the students to write what they feel is the overall message of the essay and how does the message connect to them. The identified the message when they wrote their purpose statement. Now I want them to elaborate on that message and find a personal/cultural connection (W.9-10.10).
The class writing is their ticket out the door.