We recently completed our unit on Essay Writing, and for the most part it was successful! The objective of this unit was for students to understand and use a 4-paragraph organizational structure to support their opinion on a "big idea." You know....Common Core stuff.
I also wanted students to use this structure to write several essays, so that they had enough practice to become fluent essay writers. This happened....with about 98% of my third graders.
The "essay" organizational structure is a big one and students will be assessed on their ability to use this structure over and over again throughout their school career. By "essay organizational structure" I am talking about "Intro Paragraph - Supporting Paragraph - Supporting Paragraph - Conclusion". They NEED to be able to do this, without being told, EVERY time they put pencil to paper to write on a prompted topic. I know I am over-simplifying a bit, but the truth is...if they can do this, they have won half the battle.
In our district their first big writing assessment happens in fourth grade (the state writing assessment). Our students flop on this year after year, and of course, I blame myself personally for this failure since I was their third grade teacher. So for the past two years, I have worked really hard to find ways to teach this skill in a way that students understand and can put into practice. "Chunking" my instruction has been extremely helpful in teaching how to write an organized essay. I put together these graphic organizers for the specific purpose of showing students how to write an essay, bit by bit.
As I stated, this worked GREAT for most of my students!
I had about 3 kiddos that just didn't
get it......at all. I worked with them rigorously throughout the unit,
conferring and one-on-one-ing like crazy with these little ones, but
they still didn't get it. This factoid left me with a giant pit in my
stomach. If you are like me, your failures are way more shiny than your
successes. I knew I needed to do something for these struggling
I decided to come up with an intervention plan for these students to help bring them up to speed on organizing an essay. I put together a very simple packet, that they now work on as part of their nightly homework. I had a conference with the parents of these students, and those parents enthusiastically agreed to help and support their child with this initiative. However, it could also be done during the school day, since it is pretty simple.
These reference sheets help them to see the "big" picture of their essay and gives them some sentence starters for each section (since I have found that my struggling writers don't know how to start).
The next week....wash.....rinse.......repeat. Students work with a new topic each week. This repetition has really helped my struggling writers to understand the organizational structure of an essay, while also giving them some much needed practice with their overall writing skills. They are actually beginning to get it and they have definitely shown improvement in their writing.
Improved learning....that is truly the important thing...and why I do what I do!!
This has also given me some"evidence" to add to my teacher data notebook. Let's face it...when your principal asks you during your post-evaluation chat, "So, what did you do when they didn't get it?" You need to have your butt covered!! I will have a whole lot of evidence to show that I responded to my struggling writers with an effective intervention!!
If you are looking for an intervention program for your writers who just don't get how to organize and write an opinion essay.....you may want to check it out. It includes 18 different writing prompts with graphic organizers (enough to last the whole year if needed).
I would love to give the packet away for free! Just leave a comment and I will randomly choose three winners to give it to! In your comment, please share what's going on with your struggling writers and how you might use this intervention packet.
Love and peace,