Writing and Evaluating Introductions for Document Based Question Essays

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SWBAT evaluate and write effective introductions for document based question essays.

Big Idea

It's so hard to start! Learning how to write an introduction for an argument writing piece.

Reading Time

10 minutes

Each day, I begin my ELA class with Reading Time.  This is a time for students to access a range of texts. I use this time to conference with students, collect data on class patterns and trends with independent reading and to provide individualized support. 


Effective Introduction Example

5 minutes

Today's lesson serves an introduction to working on a document based question essay. This type of writing is one that covers argumentative writing and cross-curricular writing, all emphasized in the Common Core. They have already written one this year so the overview of the type of writing is not addressed as it has been done already. The lesson today focuses on introductions for document based question essays.

This type of lesson works well when there is great collaboration with the social studies teacher. It is challenging to teach this kind of writing and use historical documents unless students so a connection between both classes. You need to think about making sure that you have an understanding of what the historical documents say that will be used and make sure students understand the expectations for writing in language arts and social studies.

The lesson begins with a review of a model essay. We specifically review the introduction as that will serve as the focus for today's class. I pull up the essay on the Smartboard and students follow along as I read it out loud. This serves as a way for students to focus their thinking for today's lesson.

To work through our thinking, I ask students what makes this an effective introduction. I make sure we briefly touch on the following topics as we discuss the introduction as a class:

  • takes a stance/argumentative
  • organized clearly and flows well
  • includes necessary background information.

I do not spend a large amount of time reviewing those as we will bring them again. This is just so students can start thinking about the big ideas of today's lesson on introductions.


Guided Instruction

20 minutes

The next part of the lesson has students evaluate introductions and the characteristics of introductions. It is important to have students think about a certain aspect of the writing so they can improve on that area. For today we are focusing specifically on introductions. Since students have already read the introduction from earlier in class, we have a common model to work with. I also pass out students' first document based question essay from earlier in the year. This helps to serve as another model to use for reflection.

I pull up the Writing A DBQ Powerpoint on the Smartboard. Today's lesson will focus on the 2nd through 4th slides. (Here is the PDF version of the Powerpoint: Writing A DBQ PDF).

I first have students answer the following questions:

  • ›Why is it an effective introduction?
  • ›How does this introduction compare to yours?
  • ›What can you include in your next introduction?

Students are using this time to evaluate writing in order to improve their own writing to answer the current document based question essay, which focuses on secession. This topic is choosen as it is what they are learning about in social studies. The social studies chooses the topics for these essays based on the social studies curriculum and what documents are available. I support students with the content by making sure I know the documents ahead of time and discussing them with the social studies teacher.

I have students compare the model introduction from earlier in the class to the introduction they wrote for their first document based question essay. They answer these questions in their notebooks or using technology. They refer back to the model introduction we discussed in the beginning part of class as well as their introductions for their first document based question essay, which I handed back earlier in today's class.Here is a student's example of answers those questions.

The next step is to review the next few slides as a class. We review the major characteristics of an introduction that are listed on the Powerpoint, which is up on the Smartboard.


Guided Practice

7 minutes

The next step is for students to begin to draft their essays. It is important to give them this time for many reasons. The concepts are still fresh in their head so engagement is usually higher. I can also assist students and guide them the process of drafting their introductions.

I go to the next slide of the Writing A DBQ Powerpoint (and here is the PDF Version: Writing A DBQ PDF) which focuses on drafting. It asks students to do the following:

  • ›Work on drafting your introduction
  • ›Keep in mind the following:
    • ›Qualities of an effective introduction
    • ›The model introduction
    • ›The rubric
    • ›Your previous introduction

Students read through this slide and begin drafting their introductions for their second document based question essay on secession. They either use technology they have or draft in their notebooks. As they are drafting I circulate around the room and offer assistance when needed. When they are drafting they have all the different resources in front of them: the model introduction on the Smartboard, their previous document based question essay with teacher comments, the DBQ rubric, and the notes from today. All these will help students make decisions as they begin to draft their introductions for this document based question essay.

This video on starting a DBQ, shows were the lesson plan may go if students are struggling with coming up with an opening statement or idea to begin their introduction. It is important to remember the in a classroom a teacher will have students with all different needs and abilities. Some may have a draft done and others may need assistance in beginning writing. During this time, I assistance students by conferencing individually with them to see what I can help them with and I also try and pair them up with a partner so they can work together.