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.
After completing a few document based question essays this year, the social studies teacher and I both agreed that analysis of evidence was an area that needed further instruction. It was with that in mind that this lesson was developed. I have spent time earlier in the year working on introductions and conclusions and working towards creating a full document based question essay. Today's lesson focuses on one aspect of the essay. They spent a large time reviewing this essay in social studies. This is the only lesson that will be done in language arts for this specific essay.
The main emphasis of the lesson is direct instruction. I show students how to properly structure a body paragraph as a way to analyze documents when writing their document based question essay. This is their third time writing one of these essays and it focuses on the events of Reconstruction. Here is an overview of the essay: DBQ Reconstruction Overview.
I pull up the DBQ3 CPR Body Paragraphs Powerpoint on the Smartboard. The first slide introduces the topic and I explain to students why were are focusing on analysis. I take them through the second slide, which is the most important aspect of the Powerpoint as it explains what they need to include in their body paragraphs. I broke it down into an acronym called CPR, which stands for claim, proof, and response/reflection. These are areas that students need practice when writing arguments. If students are able to internalize this simple acronym by the end of this lesson they will hopefully be able to apply this skill of using claim, proof, and reason in argument writing.
The next few slides show examples in context as it relates to the essay they are working on. Seeing these examples using evidence from history helps them see how they are able to use this CPR idea in their own writing. The last slide shows a full paragraph. We discuss this as a class and I show them how each sentence is color-coded to follow along with CPR. This color coding helps students have a visual representation of what they need to.
This video shows how I use the modeling with the Powerpoint and how to incorporate this type of writing in the class: Claim Proof Reason Powerpoint Explanation.
Even though this lesson focuses on a document based question essay, I think this idea can definitely apply to other types of argument writing as well. It can easily work well with literary analysis that look for the same type of skills. Don't be afraid to broaden writing to other genres as well. Having the conversation with students as they are writing and as you are teaching this can help them to see the real-world connections to what they are learning during an individualized lesson. I even had a student use this CPR acronym during his state-testing.
Students will have the rest of the class to practice writing their document based question essay. It's important to give students time to work in class on writing, especially with new concepts, as teachers can monitor whether or not they are able to apply it to their own work.
I tell the class to focus on using this CPR method as a way to structure their body paragraphs. They have different resources at their disposal. Two resources that I use to scaffold learning for students are the DBQ Graphic Organizer (and here is a PDF version:Graphic Organizer) and the DBQ1 Example. Both of these can be used for students who need assistance breaking their thoughts down and seeing this type of writing in context. The graphic organizer can be broken down using Claim, Proof, and Reason, so students can begin prewriting. The example helps students to see what a body paragraph will need so they can write effective body paragraphs themselves.
I also advise students, if they have made their own body paragraphs completed, to work on color-coding them so they can see whether or not they have enough analysis.
Workshop time is the best time support students with individual needs. There are so many different levels in our classroom at one time and so many different needs that it's really hard to pinpoint specific skills. During this time, conferencing works great. One way to conference is by jumping around from student to student, seeing where they are at, and what they need help with. Fortunately, since they have worked on a few of these essays already they know the expectations and can tell you what they need help with.