Focusing on Intro Paragraphs

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SWBAT write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence by writing a thorough introductory paragraph for a long composition.

Big Idea

Giving ample time for questions and writing introductory paragraphs practically guarantees a good essay.

Getting Started

10 minutes

At the beginning of class today, I will collect the answers to the questions to chapter 19 of Great Expectations, which they read independently. I will also ask them to put the necessary tools for today's lesson on their desks: the prompt, their outline, and the model long composition. 

Getting Ready to Write

25 minutes

Here we go! Time to write... almost. I like to go over a few details before I break the class up for individual writing. Dedicating this kind of class time early in the process on outlining and structuring the essay actually cuts the time down in the long run, and usually the essays are much more enjoyable to read.

First, I will ask the students to review their own outlines, which they wrote last class. I will reread the question aloud, to jog all of our memories, and ask each student to reread their thesis and topic sentences, making sure that each aligns with the prompt (W.9-10.1a).

For now, to "align" to the prompts means to reiterate the same language. For instance, if they are writing about a character who is selfish, I want each topic sentence to contain the word "selfish" (W.9-10.1c). When we begin writing, it's possible that some of the language might swift, as their arguments become fuller, but for now repeating the same words is the best way to know they are answering the prompt. 

Then we will review each piece of analysis. This is the hardest part for most students. Within each body paragraph, the students should incorporate theme, meaning that they should speak about the character's pride or selfish as it "relates to the work as a whole." This part is key because it is what shifts the essay from a book report to an argument.

While I can speak broadly to the class about theme, I will need to talk individually with individual students about the theme of their book. I should have time to give specific advice to each student, without writing it for them. For instance, I know one student is struggling to put the theme of The Perks of Being a Wallflower into words. It's too easy, and rather incomplete, to say that a lesson or theme of this book is stay away from drugs, something that she had been considering; something about teenage angst is more appropriate. I can say these words to her and she will be able to fill in the blanks.

All of this work is changeable. I expect that as we write and edit, their work will become more complete and sophisticated. That's the goal anyway!


It's time. Let's Write!

25 minutes

Before we write, I want to pull the class together to talk about the expectations for the introductory paragraph. I feel that it's an important step before they break off to work independently because it provides direction and purpose.

I will ask them to look at the model long composition on To Kill a Mockingbird, which they highlighted before our first long composition. I will ask them to help me make a list on the board of all the elements they must incorporate into their intro paragraphs. The highlights should help them determine each element, since each color represents the different parts: thesis, textual evidence, commentary and analysis, and transitions. As a department, we utilize a program called Writing with Colors. Our department head was instrumental in the development of this technique and we have found success with it (more details about how I "write with colors" here). Students will highlight each paragraph of this essay during the editing process. 

Finally, it's time to write! Once we have the elements of a thorough intro paragraph listed, the students will begin to write independently (W.9-10.1). I will walk around, answering individual questions. 

Wrapping Up

5 minutes

In the last few minutes of class I will remind students are their homework-- reading chapter 20 of Great Expectations and answering the respective questions-- and I will give them time to write it in their agenda books.