Adding Explanation to Essays

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Students will be able to explain details in essays by practicing writing body paragraphs.

Big Idea

Connect, don't repeat--adding good explanation to body paragraphs.

Do Now: Preposition Practice

5 minutes

Today, students continue to practice adding prepositional statements to the start of sentences. More practice means better learning, and students most need to remember that prepositional phrases are added onto complete thoughts.

In a previous warm-up, I asked them to add prepositions to a sentence I provided to them. Now I want them to create their own sentences.

After attendance, I ask for student examples:

"After the game, Tim cried in the locker room."

"Before dinner, Mike ate at McDonalds."

As usual, students have fun placing each other in amusing scenarios. Sentences may not be that detailed yet, but they're getting the point.

Adding Explanation

40 minutes

By junior year, most students understand the basic format of a persuasive essay, especially after some review and practice. Now it's time to add on skills they haven't fully explored before, starting with explanation. While students have heard the term before, their current application looks more like repetition. My job is to move them from repetition of details to connection of details to evidence.

I begin by presenting the framework for good explanation as class notes (available to the right). I share an example from a previous class and annotate where the explanation connects details to evidence, evidence to claim. Now I need to get students actively involved--too much teacher-talk quickly turns into Charlie Brown education (wah-wah-wah-wah-wah). I provide another student example and ask students to annotate it with their table partner, giving only a few minutes. The limited time sends most students right to work, but one group dawdles. I stop by and casually mention that I will likely call on them to share--to work they go. At the time limit, I call students back together ("Eyes and ears!"). I ask five students to share one connection they found, highlighting their responses. They are 100% correct, yahoo! Time for practice.

First, I think aloud as I write a body paragraph, pulling my evidence and details from one of their outlines on a previous essay. Using a student outline example validates their existing work and allows me to model the skill using work they already understand, double bonus.

"I do," check. Time for "we do." I pull another outline paragraph and ask students to help me construct a body paragraph. After each detail, I call on a student for a way to connect to the evidence. Then I call on another to get a second perspective. A third student can help choose which method to use. We repeat. Of course, not all goes well. Some students want to simply rephrase the detail. I ask, why does this detail prove the evidence? The response features the connection. We continue.

"We do," check. Time for "you all do." I present another outline paragraph and ask students to construct a paragraph. This paragraph will be their exit ticket out the door and a way for me to check their progress with the skill. Or at least it would be if the bell didn't ring--they give me thumbs up or down for understanding as they flee, averaging out in the middle. More practice is needed.