Students have been outlining their essay, strengthening their argument, and have begun drafting the body of their essays. I have offered them samples and support with the introductory paragraph, looking at weak and strong thesis statements as well as different "hooks" to open their essay. Today, I want to offer them support as they make their way through the body of their essay, in which they will engage in a full analysis of the texts they selected. I am concerned about their tendency to default to a summary of the text when they struggle to produce analytical writing.
I begin by acknowledging to students that they are in the middle of the most important part of their essay, the body, where they develop and support their thesis. I remind them of the fact that analytical sentences, which are heavily concentrated in the body of an essay, work the hardest in their essay. This is the way I have been describing analytical sentences for students because it helps illustrate the importance of analytical sentences in their essay. I now want to model how to draft a series of analytical sentences for a piece of textual evidence that supports a given thesis statement. I have a thesis statement prepared in advance. The thesis statement makes an argument about one aspect of Identity, which is the topic of the essay students are writing.
I project a word document, titled Sample Thesis And Analysis, on the board with this sample thesis statement. Note that when I fist project this document, the only thing on there is the sample thesis. Everything else is added as this part of the lesson unfolds. I make sure my students understand what this thesis is communicating. I read the thesis statement aloud, which says, "People who do not have a strong sense of identity, will be vulnerable to societal forces that threaten their sense of who they are." I have to define the word "vulnerable" for my students and then I ask them if they understand the statement I am trying to make. I also ask them if they believe this thesis statement could be proven using the texts we have studied. Students say that it can be strongly supported with the texts we have studied. To illustrate supporting this thesis statement with textual evidence, I have preselected a quote from "The Bear That Wasn't" and I now type it on the word document projected, under the thesis statement. "The Bear That Wasn't" is a children's story we read in the first unit of the year to introduce concepts and skills we would be working with throughout the year. For instance, we analyzed the arguments this story makes about identity formation. I specifically selected this text for today's lesson because few of my students are choosing to use it in their essay and they will not be tempted to copy my example. The quote I type says, "I can't go in a cave. I'm NOT a Bear. I'm a silly man who needs a shave and wears a fur coat." I explain to students that they should not just type in a quote the way I did and attempt to make it stand as a complete sentence on its own. A quote needs introductory words. I suggest several introductory words and settle on "For instance, the author of this story suggests a danger of having a strong sense of identity by having his character say,..."and I type it before the quote, as it stands in the "Sample Thesis And Analysis" document.
Now that we have a thesis statement and supporting textual evidence, I tell students it is time to analyze this quote, which is the focus of this lesson. For support, I give students guidelines to write quality analytical sentences. The guidelines are listed in three bullet points that make it to the bottom of this document by the end of this lesson. I have the three bullet points typed in advance and just move them to the page at this point. I read each bullet point aloud and tell them that this is the reason why I say that analysis works the hardest. It has to do all these things.
I now want students to suggest analytical sentences for the quote on the document. I ask them to think about what the quote on this document does for the reader or what the author meant to do, which is the criteria in the first bullet point Students suggest different things and in the process, they are verbally engaging in analysis. I point this out. I use parts of what was suggested and fill it with my own words. As I type the two analytical sentences, I point to a chart I have on the wall with a long list of Verbs that help in Analysis and urge students to make use of it, as dictated in the second bullet point. I model by explicitly selecting two verbs from that list to help me draft the analytical sentences, reveal and highlight. Once I finish typing these, I remind them of a previous activity where students color coded a paragraph. Specifically, they color coded evidence in green and analysis in blue. I reminded them that an analytical paragraph must be heavily blue because a paragraph that is heavily green is a summary and that a summary is not what the task calls for. In today's document, I go ahead and highlight the quote green and highlight the analytical verbs blue. I want to be explicit about using the analytical verbs I have urged students to use. I tell them that after the textual example the rest of this short paragraph is blue, meaning it is analytical sentences. In this way, students can visually see the relative space that evidence holds in an analytical paragraph. Finally, I go over each of the three bullet points and explicitly indicate where my analysis fulfills each. In this video, I describe this process beginning with the thesis statement I wrote in advance and writing analytical sentences that meet the requirements outlined in the three bullet points of the chart.
I give students the rest of the period to continue drafting their essay. This is an extended period of time for students to focus on their writing and at the same time have access to help from each other as well as from me. I do ask students to work mainly in silence, but they can also ask each other for help as long as it is quickly and in a low voice. During this time, I walk around looking over their work and assisting students who need help. Many still want feedback on the argument they formulated. Several have written enough of their body paragraph for me to begin providing feedback. I read as many papers as I can by keeping the reading down to their intro and one body paragraph. I tell them that whatever suggestions I make about the body paragraph I read should be applied to the other ones I did not read because they probably have similar issues. The one-on-one conversations I end up having with students during this time are extremely valuable. I make an effort to check in with those students who struggle the most and those who rarely ask questions during class. Also, if I see that several students are struggling with the same thing, I will interrupt the entire class and ask them to give me a bit of their time to listen to some suggestions regarding the given part they struggle with. This often involves reminders to explicitly apply what I showed them today. Specifically, I may have to tell everyone that what I showed them today is not just a suggestion, it is an expectation and that their grade depends on how well they apply it. I do this for the purpose of holding them accountable to the guidelines I set for them.
I ask students to make sure they continue working on their draft at home. At home, they will not have access to the long list of analytical verbs I have on the classroom wall so I suggest that they take a picture of it with their phone. Additionally, I ask them to use a chart that I have already given them in a previous lesson, which has a shorter list of analytical verbs. The chart includes Language for Analysis, Tone, and Transitions.