Class begins with the students moving into their assigned teams of 3 (a few groups have 4 students). While the students share evidence and "rules" they found with one another, I move throughout the room to stamp the homework based on completion. I listen in on all the chats, looking for any items that may need redirection or support, as I go. As I stop at each table, I ask the students to point to the piece of evidence they feel is most damaging against Mrs. Volupides' statement that her husband fell to his death. This gets them to start placing a value on each of the items, which will help them when they have to work together to select the 3 overall best pieces of evidence.
Once I have completed my rounds through the room, I get the students' attention and explain the procedure for the day's class. I pass out a 5"X 8" index card (the large index card) and ask the teams to write each student's first and last name on the back. I also let them know that, for this first effort at writing a microtheme, they will be allowed to utilize their Slip or Trip Rules notes from their ISNs to ensure they properly follow the format. The microtheme assignment is to write a claim that Mrs. Volupides is either guilty or innocent of murdering her husband as evidenced by... where the students include their strongest details as support for their claim. I also share with the students that they should include their "rules." I finish my statement by reminding the class that their microtheme will be due at the conclusion of class. I spend the remainder of the class period moving throughout the room to keep a close eye on things.
I do not allow students to begin turning in their assignments until the last 2 or 3 minutes of the class period. When students claim to be finished, I ask them to use the time remaining to edit their writing. Some student groups overly concern themselves with the time limit and do not edit well on their own prior to this encouragement.
As I circulate throughout the room, I find that most groups are working well together. Most of the groups reached a consensus on which pieces of evidence best supported the claim they decided upon. Not one single group claimed that Mrs. Volupides was innocent or that it was not clear one way or the other. Reaching an easy agreement on the claim led to pretty smooth sailing in regard to the overall content of the microtheme. All issues that did arise came from disagreements about word choice, conventions, and fluency. These issues did not go on long as I would visit with the group for a moment and have the students share their side. For the most part, once they were able to say it aloud, the group reached a pretty quick agreement. For those that didn't, I would offer advice of my own. I try not to side with one student or another whenever possible, instead offering my own alternative, preferably by combining the ideas the students disagreed about. In situations where I can blend the ideas of multiple students, I show them a way they could have solved, and can solve in the future, issues of that nature.