Expositiory Writing: My Special Place

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SWBAT identify a place in their home that holds special meaning to them, plan a 5 paragraph essay using boxes and bullets, and write a flash draft.

Big Idea

Review the process of expository writing by having students write about a special place in their home.

My Lens

The first three lessons are designed to review the process of expository writing using what the students have learned in previous grades.  Students will use boxes and bullets to plan their 5 paragraph essays.  They will use their plans (Boxes and Bullets) to  flash draft their essays.

 As teachers, we want to push students to increase their volume of writing. The flash draft can be used for a baseline and pre-assessment of writing skills.  We want students to generate, plan and produce 5 paragraphs all in one day.  I let students who did not finish take theirs home to finish.  It is important for students to keep up and move on to the next essay on day two.   My purpose for having students write three flash drafts in one week was to build their understanding and facility of the process and build their stamina.  Stamina related to the actual physical demands of writing  up to 30-40 lines of text and the mental demands (focus and concentration) required to complete this task.  There is also the classroom environment dimension of everyone staying focused for longer, and longer periods of time- up to 40-50 minutes of focused writing.  Over the coming weeks I will be teaching my students to stay focused the best they can even when several teachers are quietly conferring with students one-to-one.

To review the expository writing process, I asked students to select a place in their home they knew a lot about so their energy was be focused on the hard work of determining their claim statement, main ideas and supporting details, reasons, or examples.  It is important for me to be aware of the levels of complexity in writing tasks.  For all students to be successful, I will need to provide scaffold support- ranging from students who need help with generating ideas to write about to those who will benefit from one-to-one conferencing as they develop their plan using boxes and bullets. 

The classroom community can be very helpful in creating a sense of joy, freedom, and confidence during writing times.  I will continue to foster a positive classroom climate by reviewing our norms and classroom rules. I will build on student strengths by acknowledging them through student shares at the end of the lesson.

I use my own writing topics and storytelling about when I was young to energize the classroom and to directly model my thinking, planning and writing of the draft.  A tip I can offer is to be flexible with your resistant writers.  More on this in the next lesson.  I will explain four examples of how I supported resistant writers and include their essays for you to read.

To prepare for this unit, I wrote my own mentor texts to use in my demonstrations for each of the different kinds of essays I asked the students to write.

My trajectory is based on going from the known to the unknown.  My goal is to get students to be able to write about historical topics based on an understanding of geography and time.

Geography and time ( past, present, and future) are two qualities that I find student have a difficult time understanding.  Both are abstract concepts that need to be explored by the students in various ways.

I started this unit in the Resources for Expository Writing Lesson.   

Mini lesson

15 minutes

As an introduction to the coming week in writers workshop, I gave the  students an overview of where we were going in this unit.   These series of lessons address CCSS W5.1 and W5.2

I made an anchor chart while I was explaining the three essays they were going to write this week.  I used a set of Nesting Dolls to illustrate the concept of starting in the here and now with their writing and then moving from their home to their neighborhood and then moving out further to write about our city, Seattle.

I told them to understand geography and time we were going to start by writing about a special place in their homes where they like to spend time.

Next, I read the students the 5 paragraph essay I wrote about My Special Place when I was growing up.  My purpose was to show students what a flash draft  looked and sounded like. 

Say, "Students, your task today is to generate ideas of a special place in your house or yard. I want you to think for a minute about where you like to spend time in your house.  Give me a thumbs up when you have one idea, two fingers if you have two ideas and three fingers if you have three special places you like to spend time."  Give students time to think.  Say, "Turn and talk with your partners."  Listen in and create a list under the doc camera as you hear students share with each other.  Call on more students to share whole group.  This list will give other students ideas about where they can write about if they are not coming up with many ideas.  Say, "Students the writing process starts with generating ideas about your topic, then planning your writing.  Today you will be using boxes and bullets to plan your essay about your favorite place.  An essay is a type of nonfiction writing.  You have an idea or opinion about something that you are "claiming".  That's why is it called a "claim" statement.  Writers then write in paragraphs telling more or proving their claim.  In a five paragraph essay, writers use transition words to hold their reasons, facts and details together.  Basically a five paragraph essay has an introduction paragraph, first reason, second reason, third reason paragraphs and then ends with a conclusion paragraph.  Writers use a planning sheet to help them structure their writing so that it is organized and makes sense."

Let me show you how I planned my essay using page 1and page 2 of the boxes and bullets template.  Show template. 

Say, "Students, your task today is to generate ideas of a special place in your house or yard.  Then pick one of your ideas.  Pick an idea that you can generate lots of details and facts about and use the boxes and bullets template to capture your thinking in an organized way. Today's lesson is a chance you you to use everything you have learned in elementary school about writing and create a flash draft!  It's called a flash draft because the goal is to generate ideas, plan, and draft an essay all in one class period.  Flash means quick- like a flash of lightening.  So today as you are writing...don't hold back.  Write like a flash of lightening!

Have the paper distributors pass out the boxes and bullets template before releasing students to their seats. 



Independent Work

45 minutes

After the mini-lesson, students will return to their seats with the  boxes and bullets template.  After a few minutes of settling down time/think time, students will have about 30-40 minutes to generate a topic, plan using  boxes and bullets, and draft of a 5 paragraph essay on a place in their home that is special to them.

This writing task is a way to assess my students' writing independence and confidence.  I will be circulating through out the room, but I will not be offering strategy groups or partner work as scaffolds.

I want to see where my students fall on the writing continuum. I will determine which students need support with idea generation, planning and drafting.

I am expecting the majority of my class to show their independence and confidence by beginning to generate topics, plan their ideas and reasons using the template. I'm expecting once students are finished with their"flash planning" they will immediately begin writing or typing their 5 paragraph essays.

I will be taking note of which students struggle with the writing process and will make subsequent plans to address these issues.


Share out

5 minutes

One way I add closure to a lesson is to share one or two pieces of student work under the document camera.  While I am circulating during Independent Writing section of the workshop, I am deciding whose work I will highlight under the doc camera. I pick particular examples of student writing to highlight the skills students were practicing and what I wanted to reinforce.   

Today, I am assessing student work and choosing two examples to share with the class.   I also wanted students to feel and understand that it is ok to be at different places in the writing process.  I will share one student's plan and another student's completed draft

Students who are not finished with the plan or flash draft have several options.  They can work on it as homework, use our before and after school homework program run by our CityYear program, or get additional help from me before or after school.