Each day, I begin my ELA class with Reading Time. This is a time for students to access a range of texts. I use this time to conference with students, collect data on class patterns and trends with independent reading and to provide individualized support.
One of the best things I can do for my students is give them time to write in class. It is crucial to allow students to work on drafting in class so I can assess how they are progressing throughout the writing process. The rest of class is devoted to students spending time to draft their document based question essays. While it can be scary to give students time to write, it is the best use of teaching time. While some may say it does not look like direct instruction, it is still instruction, and often it's the best kind: individualized.
They have all the following resources available to them as they are writing:
The Transitions Handout we use for students who need assistance in transitioning as they develop their arguments. It gives them key words they can use to further their thinking. This is a great resource for lower-level writers to much their thinking along in an organized manner.
As students are writing I circulate around the classroom to see who needs assistance in their writing. I do not ask who needs help but I make sure I visit each student. These conferences are brief and it gives me a clear idea of how to help each student. Some students have specific questions and areas they know they need help with so we start from there. Other students may need help generating ideas so I ask them questions to probe their thinking. Once we get an idea, they start. These questions are usually about how their documents relate to each other. They need assistance thinking of the big picture so they can start. The big picture in this essay is whether or not secession was a good thing for the United States, and they need to look at how the historical documents relate to each other so they can support that.