This lesson came on the tails of a previous lesson about what makes a good expository essay. In that lesson, my students said that an expository essay should have the following criteria:
Okay, so I certainly helped them come up with this list, but this was after analyzing a few essays, so they really were beginning to understand the structure.
This Guiding Question gives them a chance to assess themselves on the concepts involved in writing an essay. It also gives me a chance to see what they might need more work with, and how I can support them.
When I create text sets for students, I generally print each text on a different color of paper. I then give a brief (like 30 second) description of each text, but also by previewing the length and difficulty of each text.
For this text set, it was really difficult to find high-quality texts (and I was beginning to think that I should have used the day to read The Raven), but I persevered and found the following Halloween-themed essays.
This essay is about the origins of Halloween. This one is about ghosts. This essay is about why certain generations believe in ghosts, and others don't. In thinking about my students who do not celebrate Halloween, I also included a student essay about friendship.
Students were asked to read and note basic reactions about the essays as they read.
I created this Answer Key Origins of Halloween to show students that almost all Expository Essays are going to fit into this organizational pattern.
The students were asked to read and annotate an essay of their choosing first. For the second half of the work time, I really wanted them to get away from their reactions to the essay (like, if they agreed or disagreed), and I wanted them to look simply at the structure and organization.
So, I asked them to reread the essay they chose, and fill out the "Expository Essay Planning Map". I think that a lot of teachers use planning maps like these when it is time for students to write, but I find value in them dissecting the organizational pattern of a piece of writing that already exists, so they would eventually be able to transfer that pattern to something they write.
For the reflection portion of class, I asked students to use reflection stems from their notebook. I reiterated that this was really important today because I hadn't really directly instructed them; most of the learning was done through discovery. I needed them to be honest with me in the reflection and ask for help or clarifications.
Most students admitted that they were a little confused between the introduction and conclusion. Should they say the same things twice? Other students were confused about transitions. Do they go at the beginning of paragraphs, or at the end to guide readers to the next paragraph. These are things I'm going to have to cover with my kids in the near future.