As promised on our last review of good explanation (during which I realized my students would benefit from seeing examples rather than just discussing what "good" is), today is for explanation examples.
I start class with a paragraph projected on the board, labeled with a question, "What's good about this paragraph?"
With high expectations for prizes, these reward funds could get was too expensive. The Michigan Government has proven that education funds have been cut back yearly, lowering focus on children’s learning. Funding for just one iPod can be up to $300. Instead of worrying about reward funding, we could put that money towards new books for schools. As well, thousands of dollars are funded for scholarships, making materialistic goods seem pointless. Without the added funding for incentives, schools and the government would be able to focus on raising money for more important causes.
Students pick out that there is a clear evidence statement (reward funds could get too expensive) with supporting details. Then, silence. They believe they are done.
"What else is good here?"
Oh. That idea is repeated. What's that called?
"Where do you see it repeated?"
And so on. Students are able to pick out how the paragraph is explicitly glued together by the concept of funding, appearing in multiple word forms.
I remind them that I should see this same explicit glue holding their current essays together.
Today is our second day working on drafts. Students will have three class sessions to produce their rough drafts (seems like a lot, but isn't given that we'll have to travel to the lab each day and twiddle our thumbs waiting for computers to load).
We move down to the computer lab, and after thumb twiddling, begin writing. I stroll the room to answer questions and check for engagement. Students ask clarifying questions on the assignment today:
"We need grammatical tricks, right?"
Look at your assignment sheet (A Personal Declaration).
Though I could easily tell the student to include an appositive, prepositions at the start of sentences, and present participles (the three grammatical tricks we studied to add complexity to our sentences), I don't answer because I want students to be accountable for their own work.
Other students have a different problem. As I feared, several students failed to follow my saving instruction on our previous visit to the lab (have a back-up plan: email to self or save online). Woe to them today when they discover they have no essay.
"I need an extension!" You have two days--get started and work fast. Save multiple ways this time.
"Do I still have to do this?" Yes. Save multiple ways this time.
"This is SO UNFAIR!" No, just unfortunate. Save multiple ways this time.
Eventually my broken record pays off, and students [begrudgingly] return to their seats to start over.
At the end of the hour, I remind students of the scheduled work days ahead. They save (I hope successfully--you never know) and log off until the next essay work day.