Students are expected to be completely done reading The Things They Carried. They read the last third of the book on their own at home as we began to spend class time focusing on an essay in which they agree or disagree with the argument made in an article by Tom Carhart, a Vietnam War Veteran who expressed strong opposition when the current Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall design was selected among hundreds of design proposals. The Things They Carried is pretty accessible to students like mine who struggle with reading stamina and get lost in complex texts. This has given me a good opportunity to assign big parts of this novel for independent reading at home, which can help students build reading stamina. However, there must be some sort of accountability measure because the vast majority of my students view independent reading as torture. A quiz worth a good amount of points in my grade book does the trick for my students. Today, I give them this quiz, which includes questions about the entire novel.
Students will get time today to continue working on their essay draft. Before they do this, I want to give them some guidelines.
The first thing I want to address is an issue I have observed in their drafts. Students are making statements that will be difficult to back up, such as, “All veterans are offended by the chosen design.” To address this, I introduce students to the idea of qualifiers. I give them a short list on the board, including “some,” “few,” “many,” and explain that qualifying a statement like the one I just mentioned will help them make a more convincing argument.
In addition to this, I give students a list of things to keep in mind as they draft. In this video, I explain this list. With these guidelines, I let students work on their draft the rest of the period.
I usually give students some class time to work on their writing. It is a good opportunity for some much needed silent time to write. It is also a good opportunity for them to ask me questions and get some help. We only have 20 minutes in class for this today so it is not enough for me to conference with all students. I tell them that they cannot ask me to read their entire draft and get feed back. Instead, they should ask me specific questions about an aspect of their essay. With this, students ask me specific questions about Carhart’s article or Maya Lin’s proposal or The Things They Carried. They also share specific ideas from their essay.
Students work through the rest of the period. They are to finish an entire draft for homework.