What's More Delicious Than Drafting with PIE?

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SWBAT utilize PIE structure to craft the informational section of their research paper, focusing on building unified, well-supported paragraphs and varying syntax.

Big Idea

This is the easiest way to teach paragraph construction utilizing evidence. Period. Check it out before you grade another wandering essay!


10 minutes

Since students will end up working on different things later this class period, I want to make sure that all groups of students will be able to work productively on whatever they need to do.  I will have two basic groups of students today.  The first group of students will be those who are "catching up" on their research tasks or picking up additional credit on incomplete research tasks.  To aid them with this endeavor and make my deadlines crystal clear, I created a handout called "Late Work Update and Grade FAQ's" that clearly states deadlines and answers the questions that I know I will get during the hour from these students.  This is attached in the resources section.  The second group of students are the ones that have come to class prepared for drafting and caught up on their pre-writing tasks.  (Sidebar: I love these students, and I always want to make sure they have what they need to press on so that they don't get bored and start letting their standards slide because many of their peers do!)  This group of students will be working on drafting using the PIE structure today, and all students will be a part of the discussion about drafting with this process that occurs in the next section of this lesson.

To start off the hour, I will frankly discuss student progress with the pre-writing assignments and stress the need to keep up with these assignment pieces in order to keep up with the research process.  While students often think they can just jump right on track after blowing off several pre-writing pieces, they very rarely can.  I will briefly review the Late Work Update and Grade FAQ's handout, and I will encourage ALL students to review their grades in Skyward to ensure that they have earned full credit on their assignments.


Building Knowledge

20 minutes

In the next section of our lesson, I will introduce "PIE Structure" for writing paragraphs to all students.  Since this is a brand new concept (or term, at the very least!) for students, I will have all students close their Chromebooks to ensure that they are giving the class their full attention.  Many of them will want to frantically make up their late work and ignore the lesson, but ultimately, this will just put them further behind!  Before jumping into PIE structure, I will ask students a baseline question with the intention of making them realize that they are largely misinformed about paragraphs.  My single question will be: How many sentences are there in a paragraph?  Typically students start shouting numbers (and 5, for some reason, is usually the first guess!), and eventually they will have to be told the correct answer (that there IS NO NUMBER, a paragraph is just about ONE TOPIC) or someone will finally catch on to the "trick" of the question and answer it correctly.  This example will illustrate for students that making well-crafted paragraphs requires more than just scrolling through their documents and breaking up large chunks of text with new paragraphs.  

After we've established what a paragraph actually IS, I will help build student support for actually using their outlines while they write.  It's been my quest so far to get my students to see that all these pre-writing steps are actually helpful and worth completing for ALL writing assignments, not just those for which they are assigned!  In that vein, I will quickly subject my students to a verbal poll by asking, "How many of you use outlines when you're drafting any kind of written assignment?"  After a quick show of hands, I will allow students to share their feelings--without censor--about outlines.  Many students will happily bash on outlines for a while, but I've found that allowing them to vent about what they DON'T LIKE about something often gives me huge insight into their misunderstandings about it.  (Common gripes about outlining and comebacks favoring PIE structure are contained in the resources section if you're interested!)  Outlining really does make the writing process easier and improve the final product, so I KNOW that these students are simply not using it correctly!  After they conclude explaining what they don't like, how they don't really need to outline anything, and why "outlining doesn't work" for them, we will get down to business showing them how to use an outline to make their research papers stellar.  

On the projector, I will display the "PIE Structure Basics" and review what the acronym "PIE" stands for, how it looks in paragraphs, and how it compares to sloppy paragraph structure (on the right piece of the graphic!).  Then, students will open their Chromebooks and read page 5-7 of the Argumentative Writing Textbook Section (which is a flexbook that I created using CK-12) aloud so that we can review PIE structure in greater detail and evaluate the example on page 8.  After students have completed this overview of PIE structure, we will identify more examples of PIE structure using the following video, pausing to answer his questions as a class throughout the video.


50 minutes

When students have a clear understanding of this structure, I will ask them to begin writing paragraphs in this structure for their "Background" and "Definitions" section of their essay.  I always have students skip introduction paragraphs when we start drafting, as these are perpetual trouble spots that inhibit free drafting!  I'm a linear person who likes to do things IN ORDER, but even I have to skip introductions and write them when I'm all done writing the body and have a better idea of what I actually need to introduce!  Students will start with this informational section of their research paper, since most students are more comfortable writing this type of text.  They should treat every point on their outline as a new PIE paragraph (since paragraphs are by topic), rearranging points as necessary to improve flow.  I also want to prevent students from making their ENTIRE paper an informational "background" section, so I'm limiting this section of the paper to 1-2 pages at most.  I will need to emphasize to students that for this section they will need to focus on the items an audience member MUST know in order to understand their topic, rather than overwhelm it with information that the audience already knows or information that they don't have a critical need to understand the issue at hand.  This will definitely be a fight for many students, as they are pros at loading up their papers with useless information to meet page requirements.  Making them pause to recognize the need to select the best information for their purpose is key in fulfilling the Common Core standards writing skills.  Before I turn them loose on drafting, I will also remind them to use parenthetical citations at the end of any sentence which contains information from their notecards.  Their Author/Title notecard tags will work perfectly to place in the citations, making this process simple.  Quotation marks should also be used for direct quotes.

After explaining these expectations, students will use the rest of this time to work on their outstanding pre-writing tasks or begin PIE drafting.  I will move throughout the room to answer questions and help students see the beauty of using outlines and PIE structure to break down this process into manageable chunks!


10 minutes

Before students leave this hour, I will reiterate that the late deadlines for pre-writing pieces are FIRM, so any students still working on catching up need to make good choices with their time now and moving forward to dedicate the time necessary to complete this project.  

I will also reiterate that all students need to have a draft which uses PIE structure for the Background and Definitions sections of their outline at the start of next class period.  We will be completing activities in class using this piece of the draft, so it will be critical that they arrive for class prepared.  

Finally, students need to ensure that they have formatted their drafts using proper MLA formatting using the Sample MLA Paper from the OWL.  I will project this example in the front of the classroom to point out the numerous notes about formatting this fabulous organization has included to aid students in their quest for MLA perfection.  While many students will whine about having to format this paper based on this handout rather than in-class modeling, I feel that this is one of the ways that students need to become college and career ready.  MLA in particular changes quite often, so I always want to show students the resources they need to access to find out the most current information, then require them to use these resources in a self-guided manner.  That's a skill they will need for the rest of high school, college, and beyond, and it's still what I do when writing papers today!

Next Steps

Between this class period and the next, I will continue to follow up with students and parents about late and missing pre-writing pieces.  I will also make it my goal to hop on to every student's draft to leave a comment of encouragement or advice for them moving forward!  I have about 180 students, so this is extremely time consuming, but it's also so motivational for them, both because they feel warm and fuzzy and because they feel like I'm always watching so they should be working hard!  At this point in "progress checks," I will have a pretty good idea of what students are in trouble and need extra time, so I will personally invite them to make an appointment for my "extra help" sessions before and after school.  I've always offered extra time for student help during research paper season, but students rarely take advantage of it.  Offering it to students and letting parents know it's available is an extremely important step to prevent parent anger over students with late work or troubles with your administrators if students opt to not turn in research papers (despite your best efforts).