Personal Essay: Evaluating The Connection Between Method And Meaning With Mairs' Essay "On Being a Cripple"

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SWBAT analyze how an author's ideas are developed by completing a chart describing the meaning of particular parts of a text.

Big Idea

Does every word an author uses matter?

Warm Up

10 minutes

To prepare students for today's work and the thematic elements of our essay, I ask them to enter class and respond to this prompt:

Imagine you are meeting someone and to introduce yourself you only get to say three sentences.  Each sentence has to begin with "I".  Write your three sentences. (W.9-10.10)

After students write, we will discuss our sentences.  


Today, students are reading a personal essay by Nancy Mairs who explains how she identifies herself.  I ask students to write to this prompt because I want them to consider how they would identify themselves tooters.  We are switching from analyzing poetry during the previous two lessons to personal essay today.  I want students to understand that the skills they use can be applied to multiple texts.  

Method and Meaning Chart

25 minutes

Nancy Mairs, On Being A Cripple is a text in 50 Essays: A Portable Anthology which I have in class. Please watch this video Teaching sensitive material is tough.   An excerpt of the text was also used on the AP Language and Composition test and has been released on the CollegeBoard Website.  We will use that excerpt in class.  I distribute the essay and we read it aloud.  Most students are shocked that an essay would begin with such a bold statement.  I first ask the students to quickly respond to the first three sentences of her personal essay, all of which begin with "I."  I ask them to consider why she would begin her essay in that way (RI.9-10.1, RI.9-10.5).  While students are working, I write her first three sentences on the left hand side of a T chart on the board.  I label the left hand side Method.  On the right hand side, I label it Meaning.  As students explain their thoughts about Mairs beginning the essay in this way, I write their thinking on the Meaning side.  

I tell students to continue working through the text completing their Method and Meaning chart.  I explain to students that I want them to list anything that sticks out to them on the left hand side.  They explain its meaning on the right hand side.  

This On Being a Cripple M and M Chart example shows the beginning of a student's M&M chart.  

Writing a Response

20 minutes

After students have completed their chart, I open the floor for a five minute discussion.  I call on students to bring their chart up to the doc cam and share something they wrote.  

Then, I tell them I would like them to write an analytical paragraph and I give them the prompt,

Nancy Mairs shocks the reader by referring to herself as  a cripple.  In an analytical paragraph explain the significance of beginning her essay in this way (W.9-10.9, W.9-10.2, RI.9-10.2, RI.9-10.4, RI.9-10.5).  

As students are working, I will walk around and help where needed.   This student response to essay shows a students' work who performed well on this task.