Students who are not behind have a well-written claim and well-written topic sentences. They are now ready to draft their essay starting with the introductory paragraph. I open class by asking students to take out the paper where they have these written, their copy of Their Eyes Were Watching God and lined paper. They know they are starting an essay today so I jump into a detailed summary of what is expected in their essay. They are going to be pulling together a variety of elements and I want to make sure these are clear. In this video, I summarize the variety of elements students must pull together in this essay. I acknowledge to students that there is a lot they have to pull together, but it is not the first time they do this so we will all approach it with optimism.
Students will have three class periods to complete this essay. I want to be able to give them as much feedback on their writing as I can. For this, I set up a pacing plan for them. I tell students that in order for me to give them feedback, I need them to make sure they finish their introductory paragraph and at least their first body paragraph by the beginning of the next period. My plan is to read these two paragraphs in class tomorrow as they move on to the next paragraphs and give them feedback they can apply to the next paragraphs.
Today, I give them the rest of the period to write in silence. I expect students to need little assistance with the introductory paragraph, except a reminder of what must be included in it. This is only true for a few students who need a quick reminder of what is supposed to happen in an introductory paragraph. My response to these students is that it is very simple at this point because they already have the most challenging element of the intro, the thesis statement. I simply remind them to open with a hook, and add a couple more sentences to introduce the topic before presenting their thesis statement. The body paragraphs are a different story. These are much more challenging for students to develop. Still, their questions are almost as basic as their questions about the introductory paragraph. A few will ask something like, “So, what goes in the body paragraph?” I also try and illustrate the simple aspects of this by highlighting the fact that they have already made the most important decision, which is what their body paragraphs will focus on. I point out that this is stated in the topic sentences they have already written and that this is the first sentence of their body paragraph. I then remind them that the rest of the paragraph is a combination of evidence, which they already have selected, and analysis. I make sure to remind them that that the body paragraphs should be light on evidence and heavy on analysis and, again, point to the chart titled “Verbs that help in Analysis” to remind them to make use of it.
After students have been writing for a while, I begin to read over their shoulder. The work is slow so I mainly take a look at their introductory paragraphs, which do not have major issues at this point. Eventually, I begin to see pieces of their first body paragraph, although not enough to see any trends. I let them continue drafting in silence. They need the extended period of time working in silence.
I share my observation that, as a group, they did not get very far today. I assure them this is ok because writing is supposed to take time. I instruct them to work on this at home. Specifically, I remind them that the goal is for them to finish at least one entire body paragraph, in addition to the introductory paragraph, so that I can read them during class and I can give them immediate feedback.