Like most teachers, I like to browse test questions on the web. After all, sometimes writing all of our own material can result in tunnel vision, and there are some great resources out there!
While I was looking around, I found a great list of essay prompts that a teacher had prepared for a Twelfth Night final exam project. I really liked the second question, but I wanted to adapt it. So, I just changed it from an essay to a graphic organizer:
Assignment: Orsino, Olivia, and Malvolio each react differently to being in love. Develop a graphic organizer that compares (and contrasts) the effects of being in love on these three characters. How does being in love affect their behavior, their speech, and their relations with other characters? Your graphic organizer must include text support and citations. You may excerpt lines, but make sure you retain the important parts (that support your assertions.)
Before we started, I passed out books and white paper. The students got their journals out for drafting.
When I introduced the assignment and read the prompt, the kids seemed puzzled. So, I sketched out a bunch of different ways to approach the assignment. You could do a Venn Diagram with three circles, a web, or a drawing. I reminded them that they could color code their graphic organizer to address the compare/contrast element. But I made sure that I didn't "push" any particular kind of structure. I really want the students to demonstrate their own ways of thinking.
As a result, some of the students spent thirty minutes thinking and reading. Others went straight to the white paper (which made me concerned, but they need to figure this out for themselves.)
I expect that this assignment will take 60-90 minutes, so we will be working on it for a few days. I have written this up as a single lesson so that it is easy to follow. However, I would definitely recommend that you break it up over several days.
One of the most difficult parts for me, the teacher, was to circulate and remind, remind, remind students that their answers needed to be grounded in the text. At this point, they seem to be of two mindsets -- cite everything, thus taking forever to complete an analysis task or cite nothing and speak in generalities. I tried to talk to them about finding a middle ground. Yes, their writing should be grounded in the text and they should use text support strategically. But, on the other hand, a paper is not a list of citations.
So, I tried to go around and have one-on-one conversations as students collected evidence. Some smart kids picked up on the fact that something that a character says could fall under the category of both speech and behavior, or all three sections. That's great. That's why they didn't have to have a million pieces of text support. Instead, I wanted them to look for what their speech revealed about their attitudes toward love.
The last step in this process is for students to create the final copy. While doing so, they should really question the choices that they make and put themselves in the place of the reader (me.)
Many students spent time working out elaborate keys or coding systems, while others seemed to groove along. I was really hoping that the students would develop a new appreciation for the similarities among the characters when they fall under the spell of love...we will see if they remember that...
Most of my students were able to finish the assignment in class, over the course of a few work periods (30-40 minutes in length.) Some had to take them home. Though I was initially opposed to them taking the work home (because I really wanted them to think, without help from parents, without consulting resources, etc.) but, in the end, I did allow it.