My students continued moving along the writing cycle. After collecting, we started the process of choosing.
What is choosing?
In this phase, students choose a thesis statement (idea or theory) that they feel have enough evidence to support. Since we are using boxes and bullets, the thesis will most likely be the box and the supporting evidence will be the bullets. However, this is a great time to talk in detail about what a thesis statement is and what is not.
- Characters (Elizabeth is brave)
- Relationships among characters (Frog and Toad are great friends)
- Theme/interpretrations (The Paper Bag Princess is not a traditional fairy tale)
Thesis statements are NOT:
-Facts about a story (Gladys is a girl or Elizabeth wears a paper bag)
-Questions (Are you a brave person? Do you think it is ok to lie?)
I usually give students 2 days to choose because I want to make sure their thesis are actual theses and have enough evidence to support them. I try my best to go around and meet with as many students as I can. Throughout the unit, I usually flag (or note) students who may have a hard time with the concept or generating ideas about texts. At the end of the second day, I usually have a very-very small ‘celebration’ where students share their theses and evidence with the entire class. This is a great time to assess and note students that may be struggling. Students write their theses and reasons on a sticky note, share them out loud and place them on a chart for the entire class to see. The main reason we have this celebration is to assess my students’ choices and to make a big deal about the thesis they are picking (saves time especially for students who may decide to change their theses many times).
Up until now, all the work has been done inside their writing journal. As we move to developing, students go from their journals to a system of mini-folders. These folders will help children stay organized as they collect information and evidence for each one of their reasons. The folders have distinct colors (feel free to use the colors you need – just remain consistent throughout the unit).
|Gathering evidence for our literary essays|
We used orange to be the ‘actual folder’ and then yellow (2 pieces) to serve as the introduction and conclusion, and cream (3) to be paragraph 2, 3, and 4. Outside EACH piece of paper, my students wrote their thesis statement. This allowed them to ‘stay focused’ as we gathered evidence.
To develop, students had the mission of finding specific evidence to support their reasons. For example, we had mini lessons on quoting directly from the text, paraphrasing, using lists as examples, etc. After students were done collecting evidence for their reasons, we looked at introductions – specifically HOW to write effective intros (using a hook, a small summary of the book, stating the thesis and reasons to support the thesis). Moved to conclusions and really making sure we had gathered enough information to make our paragraphs strong. Keep in mind that all the evidence was collected in small strips of paper and filled inside the specific folder. During drafting we will look at adding all the pieces together and deciding what to keep and what to leave out.
This was the first time I taught literary essays this way and it has really made a HUGE difference. The folder system is great in helping students see the structure of the essay and collect evidence in a way that supports what they are already doing.
So, how do you help your students stay organized while writing?