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In my experience, I’ve found that students appreciate having a clear picture of what’s expected of them when beginning a writing assignment.At this time, I also show them a model of a piece of writing that meets the requirements of the assignment.Then again, I’m always interested in how other people do the things I can already do; maybe you’re curious like that, too.
Ideally, this writing would come from real publications and not be fabricated by me in order to embody the form I’m looking for.
(Although most experts on writing instruction employ some kind of mentor text study, the person I learned it from best was Katie Wood Ray in her book Study Driven).
I look for and put together resources that would appeal to any teacher who teaches any subject.
That practice will continue for as long as I keep this up.
Later, as students work on their own pieces, I would likely return to these pieces to show students how to execute certain writing moves.
Although many students might need more practice in writing an effective argument, many of them are excellent at arguing in person. Yes, I was certified to teach the full spectrum of English language arts—literature, grammar and usage, speech, drama, and so on—but my absolute favorite, the thing I loved doing the most, was teaching students how to write.Most of the material on this site is directed at all teachers.Next, we’d have a Philosophical Chairs debate (learn about this in my discussion strategies post), which is very similar to “This or That,” except students use textual evidence to back up their points, and there are a few more rules.Here they are still doing verbal argument, but the experience should make them more likely to appreciate the value of evidence when trying to persuade.It’s not exactly the 5-paragraph essay, but it definitely builds on that model.I strongly believe students should be shown how to move past those kinds of structures into a style of writing that’s more natural and fitting to the task and audience, but I also think they should start with something that’s pretty clearly organized. One of the most effective ways to improve student writing is to show them mentor texts, examples of excellent writing within the genre students are about to attempt themselves.Since I want the writing to be high quality and the subject matter to be high interest, I might choose pieces like Jessica Lahey’s Students Who Lose Recess Are the Ones Who Need it Most and David Bulley’s School Suspensions Don’t Work.I would have students read these texts, compare them, and find places where the authors used evidence to back up their assertions.To help them make this connection, I would have them do some informal debate on easy, high-interest topics.An activity like This or That (one of the classroom icebreakers I talked about last year) would be perfect here: I read a statement like “Women have the same opportunities in life as men.” Students who agree with the statement move to one side of the room, and those who disagree move to the other side.