In a previous lesson on test taking strategies, students wrote personal plans for success. Many noted that they would benefit from taking the time to plan a response before writing it. This lesson is created with that in mind.
To start class, I pass out the ORQ Activity Packet and assign one question to each group of students. The goal is to come up with a plan for organizing the answer. Obviously, they cannot actually fill in the organizer because they do not have the text, which will be a poem. But the point is made that reading the question over carefully and determining what the type of information is needed to write a response is an important first step to doing well on this type of writing assignment. Each group presents there findings to the class and students take notes during the presentations. Each question in the packet comes from grade 6 ELA tests recently released by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
For students to apply the skill of pre-planning a writing assignment they read and respond to “Throwing a Tree” by Thomas Hardy, which appeared on a grade 6 ELA test that was recently released by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
They read the poem closely, answer four multiple-choice questions and plan an answer to an open response question (ORQ). One reason for choosing this particular selection is its link with our poetry unit: the ORQ prompt asks students to identify and explain the poet’s use of personification. I allow students to work with a partner while reading and annotating the poem, answering the multiple choice questions and pre-planning the written response in order to check in on their ability to move through this process.
At this point, students work independently to write responses to the prompt. The results can be reviewed in a variety of ways. Students can analyze their use of pre-planning strategies by comparing this one with previous ones. The class can examine the citations chosen for the response and determined which is the strongest. The use of transitions and the smooth integration of quotes can also be compared from one response to another. A graphic organizer used by students during the writing process appears here. One example of a completed ORQ appears here. The student's work marking up the poem and the pre-planning page can be viewed here and this video explains the process.