Today's Do Now is a review of our previous writing lesson, a study of how to explain without simply repeating. I ask students to connect the following detail and evidence, hoping that they will use key words from the evidence statement in their explanation to show that students being forced to contact their teachers actually helps the student:
After attendance, I ask for a volunteer to share (since this is our first practice since learning the skill, a volunteer is a better choice--many students do not feel confident yet). Silence. I wait. And wait. A hand creeps up, excellent!
Student one uses the key word "help" in his connection. I point out that he has done so and praise the effort, then I ask for another perspective.
Student two uses the key word "grades" in her connection to show students contacting teachers can result in discussion about and improvement of grades; again, praise and a request for another perspective.
Student three uses a phrase, "if parents do not access" to show that parents are unable to help students make contact if they don't know a problem exists. Another solid connection!
With three good examples, I move students along to our next practice opportunity for explanation.
I explain that we are ONLY focusing on explanation today, and to help us do that, we're all working from the same essay outline. I present the prompt (should schools offer small incentives, such as iPods, for good ACT scores?) and a student outline from another class. I explain the discussion that went into the creation of the outline to help students understand the reasoning, and then I ask them to write the essay.
I allow students to work solo or with a partner today because this is our first full application of the skill; they need the support. Most students choose to work with a partner. I circulate as they work, noticing good collaboration. They discuss how the details connect to the evidence and then pull from their discussion to write the actual paragraph--exactly what I was looking for.
One group disagrees with the outline. They ask if they can write a different essay, but I reiterate that our focus is on the quality of the explanation today; I would like us all to work with the same outline so we can compare the explanation when we're done. Only somewhat appeased, they ask if they can be sarcastic. Certainly, so long as they explain.
Another group struggles to find a key word in one evidence statement. We discuss how it differs from the other paragraphs to help them narrow their focus.
By the end of the hour, the essays are submitted to the drop box. Our next step will be revision from feedback.
In the included student example (created from a different class/outline), notice how each body paragraph ends with a connection back to the claim--that schools should not offer incentives. The student author repeatedly emphasizes her claim without simply rewording it by making connections to the topic of each body paragraph.