Since students are drafting their Past-Present-Future Essays today, I start class by asking them to review good body paragraph structure, a topic of study in our first writing unit.
What goes into a good body paragraph?
"Uhm, quotes." What else?
"Facts." What do quotes and facts qualify as?
"Oh, details!" Yep. What else?
"Uhh, the claim for your paragraph. I can't remember what it's called." Yes--anyone remember?
"Evidence?" Yes! Others?
"Transitions?" Yes--we'll talk about those in this unit. What else did we study last unit?
Silence. I'll give a hint (I make the hand sign for connection which we use during discussion).
"Oh yeah, connection!" What else do we call that?
"Explanation." Okay. What order do we use?
Students are able to construct the order now that all elements have been listed. Satisfied that our review covered all the key elements we have already studied, we move on.
I pass back student outlines, marked up with my feedback. Overall, students had solid outlines. The only major error was lack of specificity in their details. Students did not always choose what seemed to be the most relevant details to support their claims about themselves. While I've addressed this individually, I think it important to talk to the whole class. I give an example:
What's the difference between the following?
One--I work hard all the time.
Two--I spend up to 12 hours each day working, teaching lessons during the school day, grading during my planning period, and planning new activities when I get home.
Students immediately pick up on how specific the second detail is--I explain that I want to see this same level of specificity in their essays. Show me, don't tell me. Heads nod.
I ask students to write only their body paragraphs today; later this week, we will study and add introductions and conclusions.
Students work for the remainder of the hour, turning their outlines into fledged-out paragraphs. There are few questions as students define who they are.