Brainstorming and Organizing Our Thinking

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SWBAT to organize their essay by comparing Mason Dixon Memory to Song of the Tree through theme.

Big Idea

Organize your life lessons.

Lesson Opener

5 minutes

In my lesson openers I always have a "connect" in which I connect students' thinking about yesterday's lesson to today's lesson. I then have a "teach" in which I model for students the lesson of the day and also have them try it out. When I think about my modeling I use three categories; skill, strategy, and process. I model by stating the skill to the students, then giving them a strategy in which to use the skill, followed by the process to try out the strategy.

Connect: “We have written a lot about Mason Dixon Memory and discussed it, now it is time to formally write about it.”

Teach: I will say, “In order to plan out my draft,  I am going to practice the skill of brainstorming the angle I want to write about and the strategy using my writing to create it. The process I will use is as follows:

1) Look through my notebook and review my writing about Mason Dixon Memory

2) Draw my organizer in my notebook using my teacher’s example as a guide

3) Pick the angle which I could describe in detail

4) Organize my essay with Boxes, Bullets and Brackets.”

I will show students how I look through my writing and brainstorm the angle I will take for this literary essay. I will have them jot down a two column chart: angle/claim/reasons. I will show them how I would do this with Song of the Trees while comparing it to Mason Dixon Memory with at least two of my reasons: Theme/People use their power to take advantage of the powerless/1) People try to manipulate people they perceive as weak. 2) People try to use their positions as a form of power. 3) However, if the powerless stand up to those in power, they become poweful.

I will then give students examples of the angles they can take: Comparing characters through theme from Mason Dixon Memory and Song of the Trees, Comparing themes from Mason Dixon Memory and Song of the Trees, Comparing author’s craft from Mason Dixon Memory and Song of the Trees. 

Active Engagement

5 minutes

Active Engagement: I will say,”You will now look through your notebook and you will say to your partner, An angle I can take is___________because__________.” You will then take about 5 minutes to brainstorm or I will give you more if you need it. I then want you to pick on angle to organize your essay with.I will then look over the shoulder of each level of learner to ensure they are starting their organizer successfully. (at least 3 students-one who is at standard, one is approaching standard, and one who is above standard).

Closing of Active Engagement: I will say, “Remember in order to plan out an explanatory essay, successful writers use the skill of brainstorming the angle they want to write about and the strategy using my writing to create it. The review their writing, pick the angle they can describe in detail and then organize their essay.


Independent Practice

30 minutes

Independent Practice: I will say, “Now you are going organize your first literary essay.” They should organize for at least 15 minutes or more. They should be using exact quotes from the text for their evidence.” As they are working independently and quietly, (I like to play classical or smooth jazz for “writing” music (I just create a play list on Pandora Internet radio) I will confer with them about their writing by using the attached conference chart.

Partner Work: “You are now going to trade your organizer with your partner I want you to read through it and let your partner know if their claim, reasons and evidence all match.” I will show them how I read through my own and put the claim, reason and evidence together.

For example I will read my “box,” “People use their power to take advantage of the powerless because (my first bullet) People try to manipulate other peole thy perceive as weak. For example, (my first bracket) Mr.Anderson tried to manipulate Big Ma, he said, “Sixty-five dollars. That’s an awful lot of money in these hard times.”Also the country club owners tried to manipulate the golf team in Mason Dixon Memory. The owners told the coach, “the Caldwell Parish Country Club is reserved fore whites only. If we leave, we forfeit the tournament. If we stay, Dondre can’t play.

I will ask the class, “Does that make logical sense that it all fits together?” I want you to read through your partner’s work the same way. I will help coach them through this as I walk around.

After they are done I will say, “Decide who will be partner A and who will be partner B. Partner A I want you to share your feedback about Partner B’s organization. Give them feedback; tell them an idea of what they could add or let them know their organization was logical. Then you will switch.”


5 minutes

I believe that the end of the lesson should be an assessment of the days’ learning; therefore it should be independent work. I always end class with an “exit ticket” in which students write down the response to a question.

Closing: Students will have time to revise their boxes, bullets and bracket and then will turn in their organizational chart. 

It is exciting to see the thinking of my students really deepen as we are now on the second draft of a literary essay. The second one was hard to get through, but after the third one, students start to see their own knowledge deepen. Here is a pen tapping interpretation of my students' feeling about literary essay.