This is our second session today. Double sessions while writing are great because you don't lose momentum. Students know exactly how to begin-- all writing and resources on their desk for reference-- and they know their goals. This morning we highlighted work and filled in any missing gaps in each paragraph. This afternoon we will finish the rough draft and refine the work.
It's great to use class time for writing and editing. I have found that it is the best way to ensure students' full attention. At home, they write surrounded by facebook bings, tv in the background, and persistent text messages. In class, they can't do that. Instead, they have the time and mental space to realize how hard it is to write something worth reading. Maybe they will even extend that knowledge and realize how impossible it is to write while distracted.
We will spend the first part of class finishing the rough draft. Everyone will work at their own pace, since they are in different places in the process. Students can spend the time finishing the last two paragraphs (W.9-10.4), revising, highlighting, or a combination of all those activities (W.9-10.5).
This time is important for the students and for me. It's important for them to write in an academic setting, one without distractions. The time is important for me because I can see where they struggle and I can help them in the moment instead of after the fact. So often, we evaluate the writing only at the end of the process, when it's too late, at least for that assignment. I hope that I can direct students to correct errors in the moment-- and help them understand why those corrections are necessary-- before the final assessment, so that they can reap the benefits of my comments. For instance, it's much more useful to tell a student to integrate their quotes now, than to write it five times after the fact. Moreover, I can check to make sure they haven't fallen into a book report, but are in fact writing an argument. It is almost useless to address this issue at the end of the process, because it's a waste of everyone's time; I have to write corrections that will be forgotten almost immediately (we all know that students have moved on once the final draft has been handed in), and the students didn't improve in their writing.
I have noticed over the last few class periods that many of their sentences are choppy and redundant. I am making time this period to address some of these issues. I plan to start by asking students to circle every use of is, was, are, and were. Then we will add them up. I expect that several students will have 10+ instances. But then I will blow their minds: I am only going to allow students to use these linking verbs 3 times in the entire essay. At that proclamation, I will have their attention.
We will use the next 10 minutes to build new sentences. I will ask students to share some of their sentences that use one of the restricted verbs and as a class, we will strengthen the sentence with a new verb. So often, a better, more powerful verb exists in the sentence, but they don't use it as such. It's just a matter of flipping the sentence and removing superfluous words. For example, most of their sentences read like this:
Focusing on linking verbs can help students see awkward phrasing and should help tighten writing.
At this point, my students will have been working on their essays, in different capacities, for two hours. I will give them a chance to work with their neighbor for a few minutes, as a release. They can ask their peer to focus on any part of their essay:
This clip shows two students working with each other during this process (SL.9-10.1c). One student gives the other tips on how she can improve her essay.
Students are writing their final version of the essay for homework.