At this point, most students are well on their way to finishing their essay. The goal today is to have a final draft by the end of the period. This means that they will only have time for some final touch ups and tying of loose ends. I open class with a reminder to students that today is the last day they have to finish their essay. To focus their work I tell them that there is only enough time for a tune up so that the best approach is to focus on the feedback I gave them and then to spend the rest of the time editing and producing a final draft. Most still need to write their concluding paragraph so I give them some directions for this part. So far this year, I have placed little focus on the concluding paragraph because I believe it will be more valuable for students to get better at establishing and developing their argument. If by the end of the year, the weakest area of their essays is the concluding paragraph, I would have no problem with that. I tell students to make their concluding paragraph brief. I tell them that the easiest way of writing it is by beginning with a restatement of their argument and then adding some final, powerful words about the topic. They can do this in three or four sentences. I do let them know that this easy way is also the simplest and that eventually we need to push the concluding paragraph in a more sophisticated direction. Some students may feel ready to write something more sophisticated in their conclusion so I explain a bit about how to achieve this. I tell them that a strong conclusion gives the reader a sense of a complete argument. I explain that advanced writers use their concluding paragraph to connect their analysis to larger ideas by:
I tell students that if they have no idea what this means, to go ahead and write a simple conclusion. We will be addressing this later in the year. I also say that if they do understand this, then they should push themselves and write a strong conclusion. I let students write the rest of the period.
Soon after students begin to write they begin to call me over for help. I offer one-on-one help throughout the period. I also try to help students manage their time today. Specifically, I want students to stop drafting and begin the process of editing at least half way into the period. I want them to edit and rewrite the entire essay on a clean sheet of paper to be turned in as a final draft. I find that rewriting the entire essay, either by typing or handwriting, is an additional opportunity for students to edit. When I announce that they should stop drafting and start editing half way into the period, students want to know why they must begin editing that early. I explain that it is because they are also rewriting to produce a final draft.
During this last period they are spending on this essay, students will be working on tightening their argument. The specific areas of need vary from student to student. There are several different elements students need to pull together to successfully write this essay, like I stated in a previous lesson, and students struggle with different ones. The assistance I offer students is mainly a brief review of all the mini lessons I have given them on the different elements of an argumentative essay and help figuring out how to apply that information to improve their draft. In this video, two students reflect on their experience with this writing process. It is still a challenging task for them, but they are making progress.
I collect students’ final essays. A few are not quite done and I suggest that they stay in my classroom during lunch to finish it. I also suggest they show up after school and stay in my classroom to finish it. I do not want to allow students to turn it in tomorrow because this is their final assignment of the semester and I set today as a hard deadline. Students understand this and several actually stay in my room to finish their essay.
I end on a positive note, congratulating students for having pushed an entire argumentative essay out in three days. I tell them I am looking forward to reading them and to looking at all the progress they have made.