Writing and Evaluating Body Paragraphs For Document Based Question Essays

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SWBAT analyze body paragraphs in order to support analysis of evidence and write body paragraphs to support claims.

Big Idea

It's about the how and why, not just the what of using support: Using historical documents to supports claims.

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 Body Paragraph Example Review

5 minutes

To continue the work building up to writing the document based question essay, students will spend the lesson today working on body paragraphs. We begin the lesson by analyzing a sample effective body paragraph. This lesson serves as a way for students to analyze effective body paragraphs so they can improve their own skills of development in body paragraphs. The tricky part about this lesson, and really the whole unit, is supporting students with the historical content. The details of many of the historical documents that the students will be using are not something we go over in class. Fortunately, they spend time in social studies reviewing the documents and working on guide questions. Students understand the documents and the historical background of each before they come into language arts.

I pull up the model document based question essay example paragraphs on the Smartboard. I tell students that we will be discussing what makes this an effective body paragraph. I read the paragraph out loud to the class. When I am done, we discuss what makes this an effective body paragraph. It's important for students to see these concepts in context so I highlight using the Smarboard the following topics:

  • transitions as a way to assist in development
  • supporting details to assist in argument
  • vocabulary for a purpose
  • connection to thesis
  • analysis

These are all areas we will continue to work with today. The way to support students during this is to highlight each of these areas within examples of body paragraphs. They have had experience with these areas from previous writing assignments so the concepts are not new. Instead I show them each of the concepts in context of a document based question essay so they can then apply them to their own writing. 

This video shows how I analyze the body paragraph on the Smartboard.


Guided Instruction for Body Paragraphs

20 minutes

The bulk of the class is devoted to guided instruction on body paragraphs. They need the review and the direct instruction to reiterate the important of body paragraphs in argumentative writing and writing in general.

On the Smartboard we start with Document Based Question Essay Writing Paragraphs Powerpoint. The students answer the following questions, which comes from the fifth slide:

  • ›After listening to the example body paragraph, answer the following questions.
    • ›Why is it an effective paragraph?
    • ›How does this body paragraph compare to one of yours?
    • ›What can you include in your body paragraphs for the next essay?

These questions allow students to evaluate their own writing in comparison to others. By evaluating writing, students can make informed decisions about to grow as writers for the next essay. I hand back their previous document based question essay so they have another resource to pull from to answer the above questions. As students are working on these questions, I am able to conference with students individually to see where skills may be lacking. I can see if they are able to evaluate good writing and whether or not they can make informed decisions on how to improve their own writing. Students answer these questions in either their notebooks or using their own computers or iPads. Here is an example of a student's thinking about the questions.

The next part is direct instruction on body paragraphs, slides 6-9. Students are able to download the Powerpoint from my web-site. I use the same Powerpoint from earlier in the lesson. The topics include information on what to include in a body paragraph and ways to structure it.  Students are not taking the notes but following along as I explain what is in a body paragraph and how to write one. It is not the taking of the notes themselves that is important, but rather the ideas behind them. I would rather devote time to students writing than taking notes.

The most important slide is the slide on analyzing documents. I stop at this slide and take the time to make sure students understand the difference between analysis and summarizing. This slide points students in the direction of analysis. It gives them a way to think about the documents they will use and how to think about them with the hopes of analyzing them. This work is really a collaborative effort. While I do teach students a little of how to analyze historical documents in general, the social studies teacher spends time going into detail with each historical document they will use. It's great to do this because students can really see the connection of the type of writing and reading they will need to do in the future. By emphasizing this in two different classes, students are able to see the importance of it.

Guided Practice for Body Paragraphs

7 minutes
The rest of class time is devoted to writing. It is important to give students time to write so, as a teacher, we can offer guidance when needed. Some students are at different stages in the process. Some students need help working on a thesis and others are able to begin implementing ideas from today. For those students, I have them think of the following resources as they work on drafting their body paragraphs:

I also hand-out the graphic organizer at this time. This graphic organizer helps students organize their thoughts to create this five paragraph essay. Each box represents a different document and their thinking on it. Students begin working on this once they have a clear thesis statement. It is an assignment for homework.

For this part of the lesson, it's important to remember that students are at different stages in the writing process. Since this essay is assigned in social studies, it is hard to keep track of where students are exactly. What helps with them is making sure there are plenty of resources available so students can work on their essay no matter where they are.

Since this is a very structure essay (five-paragraphs) students are usually more inclined to participate in the writing process fully since much of the work is already done for them. They can begin to feel a sense of accomplishment since this is a very prescriptive type of writing, which makes things easier for them.