So, it occurred to me as I was getting ready to assign my students an expository essay to write that they might not know what an essay is. We've spent a ton of time on exposition, but an essay? Not so much...
The Guiding Question is a way for me to address my suspicions and to assess if my students even knew what an essay was.
Using our work text, SpringBoard, we read the expository essay called He Would Have Like Me Better With My Tail." This is a cute essay written from the point of view of the Little Mermaid.
As I'm reading it, I'm drawing out subtle differences between narrative writing and this piece. For example, I said, "When the mermaid EXPLAINS how her life is different now, we can tell that this is expository writing. If it were narrative, she might have given us a SCENE of her old life."
Because the Expository Essay (or Summative Assessment) asks them to use Cause and Effect as an organizational pattern, I understand that I need to draw that out also while they read. Here's the Rubric, page 1 and Rubric, page 2 that my district uses.
We talk about how an essay is a piece of true writing about a specific subject, written by the point of view of the writer (I'm sure there are all kinds of exceptions to this vague definition, but for the sake of 6th graders, it works).
For the work time, I had students reread the essay and mark it up by identifying the same things that they will be asked to have in their own essays.
They needed to find:
For the most part, and because this was their first exposure to an essay--they were a little shaky on the thesis statement.
For the wrap-up or reflection, because this lesson really introduces a lot of new concepts, I understood that I needed to gauge their comfort with the material. I had them write on a sticky note what they were still confused about. Because 6th graders are hesitant to admit weakness, I gave them some options: thesis statements, a hook, topic sentences, exposition, or just essays in general. .
By and large, most students needed to see more examples of essays. They were confused about the fact that the text was so closely related to a popular fictional story.
Here's a similar activity I did with my short story assignment: