Today, students are writing a paragraph in which they support a statement that was written in collaboration in the previous lesson. The statement is:
Leslie Marmon Silko explained to the reader that the future holds an unfortunate fate for Native Americans.
This is the topic sentence all students are using in their paragraph today. Their job today is to support this sentence with evidence from the poem we have been working with and original analysis of selected evidence. The poem is one Leslie Marmon Silko included in her novel Ceremony. This is a copy of Silko's poem. The purpose of a uniform topic sentence is to focus students’ energy entirely on the production of analytical writing, which is an area of much need amongst my students. For support and guidance, they have a checklist on this document I distributes yesterday titled "Another Argumentative Paragraph" of all the elements they are expected to include in their paragraph.
I direct students’ attention to the checklist and briefly go over each element. I emphasize that their paragraph will not be considered complete unless they have included every single one of these elements. I remind them of the two places where they can find analytical verbs to use if they need to. There is a chart on the wall titled “Verbs that help in Analysis” and it contains plenty of options. They also have a chart in their binder titled “Language For Analysis, Tone, And Transitions." I urge students to refer to these resources as needed. They get to work.
This is a very short written assignment. I give them about 20 minutes to work. Most of this time is devoted to thinking of the right analytical verbs, the meaning of Silko's language and the best way to explain this. This is exactly what I want them to spend energy on today. The first several minutes are perfectly silent. Students are focusing on their writing. Soon, questions arise. I quietly answer their questions.
I stop students. They have been working on their paragraph for a bout 20 minutes and not all of them are finished. I let them know that I know they are not all finished and that it is ok. They all have enough work done for a peer to edit. I ask students to swap papers with a student. Once they each get a paper from a peer, I ask them to write their name next to “Name of editor.” I ask them to read the entire paragraph in silence and to look for the analytical verbs, for the direct connections to the idea in the topic sentence and for the precise language. I ask students to check off any items they did find and then I let them engage in conversation about each other’s work. I urge them to take advantage of this time to get help from their peer editor.
This is how a team of peer editors get through part of this task.
As they discuss, they also call me over to help clarify something neither one of them was able to clarify. For instance, a student has a question about how to incorporate the analytical verb “illustrate.” She is attempting to say that the reader illustrates something. I ask, “Who is illustrating something, the author or the reader?” She asks, “Who is the reader?” I say, “We are the reader. Are we illustrating something?” She says, “No.” I add, “Then, if you are trying to use the verb ‘illustrate’ you have to say that the author is illustrating something or that the language illustrates something.” She gets it and moves on to formulate her sentence. .
Now that students received feedback on their writing, I give them the rest of the period to make final adjustments. I ask them to finish it at home and be ready to turn it in the following day.