On my last post, I shared with all of you how my students and I celebrated their published realistic fiction stories. Once we closed that unit, we moved onto another writing unit: personal essays. This unit is also being taught in Spanish and my students are required to write in Spanish as well. Generally, the units are interchanged between English and Spanish. For example: if we are doing reader’s workshop in Spanish, we are doing writer’s workshop in English and vice-versa. Our reading unit is a bit long, so the other fourth grade teacher and I decided to jump to another writing unit in Spanish. We figured out that writing in Spanish again would not hurt my students – it is all in search of the perfect balance.
Teaching the ‘art of writing’ can be tricky sometimes. I want to not only teach craft, but I want to also make sure my students have such a great experience that they love to write. I have to confess that at the beginning of the year, I was a bit concerned by both the quality and quantity of their writing. At times I felt a bit discouraged, but decided to take it slowly and to celebrate each small accomplishment.
We are now on our third writing unit and I have to say that I am ecstatic to see how much my students have grown as writers. I have seen many write 3, 4 times as much as before and most importantly they are writing even when I am not asking them to write. What else can I ask for? Well, more writing.
Our new unit focuses on learning the structure of essays and we are beginning with personal essays (ensayos personales). Students will be writing based on their own experiences with mayor focus on structure (no research yet).
Oh! one more thing, I demonstrate all using my own journal, so I have added some pictures here. I will take photos of my students’ journals and update the post next week for you to see what their journals look like. Here is a sequence of how I do things and how the units is somehow paced. It is still work in progress, so changed happen along the way (all the time!).
1) I start with an on-demand assessment to evaluate what my students know about essays. I then have them do another on-demand at the end of the unit and compare/see growth (hopefully!)
- I am not a huge fan of prompts but for this one I knew I had to use something that would spark some controversy in my class
- Prompt in Spanish: Es necesario tener y hacer tareas todos los días, incluyendo los fines de semana, para ser buenos estudiantes.
2) I then move onto teaching the structure of an essay:
Por lo general ensayos personales:
A-Se centran en una idea principal o idea importante
B- Los autores de este tipo de género nos dejan saber su opinión o perspectiva y la SOPORTAN usando evidencia (ustedes van a aprender más sobre cómo generar opiniones y perspectivas basadas en evidencia en los días que vienen)
C-Comparte con tus estudiantes el texto en español basado en “Hacer siempre el bien”
3) Charts are used and serve as visual aids to constantly remind what we are working on:
Hacer lo que está correcto no es siempre
lo que está de moda
-Sentarte al lado de aquel estudiante que todos los
demás se burlan durante el almuerzo
-Incluir a otros en juegos a pesar que tus amigos no hagan lo mismo
4) We usually spend a couple of days on bullet point #3. On day 1 of bullet #3 students brainstorm ideas they would like to write about, then on day 2 of bullet #3, students start to gather their evidence that support their idea.
Teaching children to come up with 2-3 ideas can take time, especially when we ask for examples/evidence at the same time. I have seen great ideas thus far and I am envisioning that this unit will be really great.
How do you teach personal essays? Do you teach writing in Spanish? I would love to hear.