On our next writing day, I will ask students to include a grammatical technique we studied earlier this unit--a dash. To prepare them to successfully use a dash in their upcoming essay, I ask them to write a sentence with a dash today.
Before they begin, I ask why we use a dash.
"To separate ideas." Yes, but what types of ideas.
<silence> I wait them out.
"Isn't to separate important ideas?" Yes. Dashes are used to draw emphasis to an important idea in a sentence, but remember, it must be used to add a clause, not at random.
I give them a few minutes to write and then ask for examples. In the past, students struggled to use dashes to add information. Today, the six students I call on use them correctly. We're making progress!
I segue students to another focus of our upcoming essay, transitions.
We first look at the target, which asks students to use transitions throughout their entire essay rather than just between paragraphs. I explain that any time one shifts between ideas, even between details and explanation, transitions are necessary to clarify relationships and create cohesion. Does this mean students should use "First", "Second", "Third" in every paragraph? No! Today, I will provide them with tips for successful transitions use and, more importantly, a wide variety of transitions to use.
I share my tips with students using the PowerPoint, explaining that there are multiple types of transitions, each serving a purpose and providing a mild or strong (think "punch in the face" for your reader) shift of focus. I want students to use transitions correctly for their purpose (for example, "however" should not be used to introduce a second detail but should be used to show contrast) and to use a wide variety of transitions to help keep readers engaged.
Finally, we're ready for the moment we've been building to (I told my students they would have a competition the previous day)--the transition race.
I introduce the race as a table-partner activity to save the mad dash for partners. Students will work together to categorize 3 sets (tasks) of transitions I will provide to them. This will help them learn what purpose each transition serves in an essay. To help students, I have provided the mild transitions on the chart already--they will only need to categorize the strong transitions and can look at the mild transitions to help them figure out how to categorize the strong transitions. I have also provided the number of strong transitions which should appear in each category. Students will receive 1 set of transitions at a time. When they complete the first set, they will check their work in with me. If their categorization is incorrect, I will mark correct transitions and send them back to try again. Once their categorization is 100% correct, I will give them the second set, thus continuing the race.
Students huddle with their partners as I pass out the first task--the race is on!
Most groups need to make corrections to their work; figuring out the purpose of transitions is harder than it first seems because students must know the full meaning of each word or phrase. Students discover they need to look up word meanings to be successful.
To keep the race fair, I ask students to form a straight line if I'm already checking in work; students do so, though their excitement is palpable. I must check work quickly to keep their energy level and engagement with the task.
After 3 teams complete the race, I call the rest of the class off; the bell is near ringing, and we will review the correct responses, discuss how to best use our work, and revise the practice paragraphs on the notes guide during our next lesson.