Organizing Evidence Selected From “Self-Reliance” Around Central Ideas

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SWBAT make claims about a text by finding connecting ideas in evidence they previously selected.

Big Idea

We spend a lot of time on a single skill, developing topic sentences that communicate large ideas, because it is a very important skill.


In the previous lesson, I collaborated with students to write a topic sentence from a set of selected evidence, which is what they will be doing today. The evidence we worked with the day before came from a novel we read together last semester, Their Eyes Were Watching God. I used this text because students know it well and that was going to make it easier for them to access the larger ideas necessary to draft written arguments. Students were able to collaborate to come up with three possible topic sentences as well as eliminate the weakest. Today, we begin by evaluating the remaining two. 

Evaluate Topic Sentences In Collaboration

10 minutes

I display the three sentences from the day before and remind students that we eliminated the middle one. I ask students to identify the one they believe is the strongest. Students suggest one or the other and explain why. I want to give students more practice developing a topic sentence so I ask them to select two or three more stickies and to suggest topic sentences. Students suggest these sentences.

I now want to give students the opportunity to apply this skill using the stickies they worked on previously, in which they have written powerful quotes they selected from Emerson’s “Self Reliance.” I briefly summarize what I want students to do: review the quotes on their stickies, group them in sets of two or three so that each group communicates one large idea, and draft a sentence that communicates this idea. 


20 minutes

Students begin to group their stickies. The work is slow. It is a challenging task and they require a lot of support from me. I spend this time walking around and assisting students as needed.

Sharing And Evaluating

10 minutes

I want to collaborate with students to evaluate one sample sentence. I ask for someone to volunteer one topic sentence they have already drafted and display it for the entire class. This student sample serves as a model for other students and it also allows students to compare their work against this sample. The idea is that as we evaluate the quality of this sentence, students will be able to decide how close their sentence is to this one and improve their own as needed.

The collaboration also offers an opportunity for me to hear students apply the criteria I have given them and to clarify anything that seems confusing to them.

Students Edit

10 minutes

I now ask students to return to their own working topic sentences and edit keeping in mind what we just discussed as we evaluated the sample student work together. I assist students as they work. They need a lot of support as they work. This involves clarifying the task for individual students as well as asking for the attention of the entire class and addressing challenges I see have become trends.

I ask students to finish their topic sentences for homework.