I project pictures of bees and ants on the board (or use a picture book) and ask "What do you see?" "Do these two insects look very similar?" "Do they sound similar?"
I tell them that I agree with them and then say "When I first looked at these two insects I thought they looked and acted very differently. After reading the articles on ants and bees I learned that they are actually very similar" (I want them to use a similar sentence in their closing paragraph of their essay so I write this sentence on the board and write "At first I thought" and "Now I think")
I then introduce the objective "Today we will write a persuasive argument supporting our opinion of "Are bees and ants more similar or more different?" This form of writing is called expository writing because it exposes, or shows, readers how we feel about an issue and why we feel that way. Your expository essay will answer this question and you will use the textual evidence from the articles that you wrote in your essay template to support your arguments.
This makes a great display board with the focus question as a header, a picture of a bee and an ant and students essay samples underneath!
I tell them that they will use a rubric to self evaluate their writing before, during and after they complete their essays. I like to review the components of a high and low score so they understand the expectations for their writing.
Students pass out the writing assessment packet and I ask them to turn to the back page with the rubric. I like to attach it to their writing so they can refer back to it during their writing. We review what it takes to get a four score. I then have them identify the difference between the 4, 3 and 2 scores.
In this video I review what I share with my students about how to decipher the rubric and what areas to focus their energy on.
I set a timer to give them exposure to the test-taking environment and have them start their writing silently. (I move distracted and struggling to quieter locations or give them test guards to limit distractions).
Students write for 20-30 minutes.
I like to have an extra activity for my early finishers to encourage their writing skills and not their "rushing through work" skills...so I tell those who finish early need to score their own papers using the rubric I attached to the back of their packets - (they use pencil - I use red pen to differentiate).
Here's a video outlining how we teach the rubric and what components are difficult for students to understand.
I found it difficult for some students tom stay on task because of the length of time and the commitment to take an opinion and then defend it. I think what helped them was having their graphic organizer to keep their thoughts in line and the visual of the timer projected on the board so that they knew they had to write to a specific point of time. This helped them get a sense of urgency for their writing that encouraged a more focused approach. Review my reflection for more handy tips and things to consider regarding students writing for extended periods of time.
If they do not score high enough they need to rewrite the lower-scoring areas with better sentences and evidence - if the score high, then they read silently.
We end by evaluating how we did and discussing areas of difficulty. I note these to create subsequent lessons to help build understanding.
I then have students trade papers (pull sticks) and have them use the Expository Writing Rubric to assess each other's papers. I give them 10 min to read and score and then have them peer-discuss for 5 to share ways they each could improve on their writing. Students are trained to give one positive comment before they say any improvement ones.
Then I collect the papers and use the initial opinion rubric attached to their papers to score their writing.