Monday, February 29, 2016

Writing Workshop Session 7 (Argument)

Revising Essays to Be Sure You Analyze as Well as Cite Text Evidence


When I was your age, there were these times when I said to my mother, "Why do I have to...?", and her answer was, "Because I said so, that's why."  It was as if my mother was saying, "Why? Because I am the grown-up and you are the kid and you have to do as you are told."

Has that ever happened to you?  You ask why and there is no good reason except, "Because I said so."  It is really frustrating, right? 

Here's my point.  When I read over the drafts you're planning to revise today, it seemed to me that sometimes you are doing the same thing that makes you so mad.  It's like you are just plopping stuff from the story into your essay that you think makes your point, but the reader is left unconvinced.  

Teaching Point:

Today I want to teach you that when an essayist makes a claim and includes evidence to support that claim, that alone doesn't convince readers that the claim is justified.  Essayists often revise their essays to make sure they explain why and how the evidence connects with, or supports, the claim.


 Listen to the following draft I wrote about Squeaky.  Keep this question in mind, What am I trying to explain here?

Squeaky's protectiveness of herself also drives her to push people away.  For example, in the scene where she is talking to Mr. Pearson before the race, and he asks (jokingly) if she will let someone else win, Squeaky stares him down like he is an idiot.  She is so angry that he would even suggest that she not win, that she glares at him until he stops talking!

What am I trying to explain?--How the scene with Mr. Pearson shows her pushing people away and that this is an example of her being protective.  

How or why does this scene show Squeaky pushing people away and that she is protective?

--This shows that Squeaky pushes people away because maybe Mr. Pearson was just trying to be nice to the other girls.  And she just is so mean to him like no one else matters but her, which definitely pushes him away.

--(Define the word) Protective means always watching out for danger, so this scene definitely shows Squeaky being protective.  Like, if Squeaky lost the race, and lost it on purpose, her reputation as a star runner would be in danger.  So this scene shows how Squeaky is protecting herself.  

Here is an example of doing the same work I just did, but now I'm going to add onto my explanation by using some of the prompts above.

--I think this scene shows that Squeaky thinks she is protecting herself, but really she is almost building a wall around her.  Not that she wants to be friends with Mr. Pearson, but by being rude, even if you think you are being protective, you are really just making people not like you.  This is significant because even though she thinks her rudeness is protecting her, all she winds up being is rude and alone!

Active Engagement:

Now, you will use the thought prompts to push your thinking when analyzing how a scene from your story supports the rationale for your claim.  

Partner 1:  Find the 1st place in your draft where you supplied evidence.  Go to the end of that part and put a star there.  Read aloud your evidence to your partner.

Partner 2: When your partner is done sharing their piece of evidence, toss them one of the thought prompts.  One you think might work to get your partner analyzing the evidence.  

Partner 1: Now, repeat your evidence, then take whatever thought prompt your partner threw your way, repeat it, and keep talking as long as you can.  

Partner 2:  When your partner starts to slow down, throw another thought prompt at them, one you think will keep your partner analyzing the evidence.  

*Then, switch roles.


As you continue to revise your essays, remember that it's not enough to just plop that evidence right into your piece.  The analysis of evidence, the how and why of it, is what is really going to convince your readers that your thinking is real and true.  And this goes not just for writing, but for life.  The "because I said so" reasoning is frustrating.  Supporting your reason with the why of it is just as important as the reason itself.

At the end of the workshop today, you're going to have some time to share your essays with a few others.  Be sure to work now to make your essay as powerful and convincing as you can.  Refer to any goals that you set for yourself last night.


Giving Feedback Using the Checklist

With your partner, share the essay that you have written so far.  While you are listening to one another, use the argument checklist and mark it with stars to help you listen closely and to remember the compliments you will give at the end.


Tonight, to celebrate your hard work as an essayist, read your piece once again to someone at home.  

Use the checklist to show off what you've done really well.  

Then, use the checklist to track the goals you set and think about how you'll continue to work toward these goals as we move into the next part of the unit.  

Jot your plan in our notebook.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Writing Workshop Session 6 (Argument)

Studying a Mentor Text to Construct Literary Essays

Today is the day we actually start putting all the pieces together and write our draft essay!

Today our teaching point is a bit different.  We are going to do an inquiry.  We will be researching the question: "What makes for a good literary essay? And what, exactly, does a writer do to go from making a claim and collecting evidence to actually constructing an essay?"

Teaching and Active Engagement

1. Look over Yuko's essay on Raymond's run, read or reread and add annotations.

2. Meet with your writing partner:
Partner 1~ study the introduction and last body paragraph
Partner 2~Study the middle portion of the essay

Think: "What did the author do that I could try?" Discuss your observations and pick 1 or 2 tricks that you could try.

Remember - don't just notice what the author is doing - notice HOW she did it.

Teacher: Display chart~ Things to look for when Annotating a Mentor Text during work time 
(pass out student copies)

3. Share some observations as a whole class when completed


Before you begin writing, make a quick outline so you have a plan

(Display Essay Outline)

Transitional Phrases
*If needed - Brainstorm or provide a list of good transitional phrases to use to help the essay flow more smoothly.

Think about how you are doing at this point.  What do you still need to work on?  We have an Argument Checklist to help.

Continue working on your draft of your essay.  If completed, use the checklist to determine what you are already doing well, and what you can push yourself to do next.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Writing Workshop: Session 5 (Argument)

Conveying Evidence 

Summarizing, Storytelling, and Quoting

In the previous class you learned that once you have tested out your claim, it is time to plan how the whole essay will go so that the claim at least hints at what the plan for the essay will be.  To make this plan for the essay, essayist who write about characters often try to see if this template will work:

A character is (trait) because (reason A), (reason B), and (reason C). 

Sometimes this template does not work there are others to try.

A character is (this way) (with person A) and (with person B).

A character is (this way) (in this situation) and (in that situation).

A character is (this way) and (that way) as a (role).

A character is (this way) at the start, the middle and the end of the story.  

The important thing is that once this structure work is underway, writers collect evidence to support their thinking.

Today I want to teach you that when writing a literary essay, after developing a   text-based claim, essayists reread the text  through the lens of the claim, searching for the most compelling evidence that can support it.  

Essayists do the following:

  • quote some parts of the text
  • story-tell other parts
  • summarize other parts
To do these they need to collect evidence.

How do essayist collect evidence to "back up" their claim?

Your claim is as follows: Squeaky is fiercely protective of both her brother and herself.

Use 'Raymond's Run to teach students how to skim.

  • Looking at portions of lines and recalling what that part of the story says
  • For example the portion where Squeaky keeping Raymond on the inside part of the sidewalk as they walk down the street. That's being protective.
  • Mark the evidence and keep going because you will need evidence from the beginning, middle and the end.  
  • You have to find the most compelling and convincing evidence.
  • Point out the scene where the girls are on the  street and Squeaky starts being rude to the girls before any of them actually say anything at all to Raymond.  More evidence that Squeaky is protective of Raymond.  
  • Reread closely, and annotate the passage, underlining the words that show exactly what they want to show as evidence.  
  • A lot of the passage won't, be perfect. For example, does the fact that Squeaky keeps Raymond on the inside part of the sidewalk really show that Squeaky is fiercely protective? 
  • For more evidence examples refer to pay 48.
How do you bring the evidence into the essay?

  • Story-tell the evidence (using your own words and what you know about narrative writing to re-create the portion of the story).
    • Use example on the top of page 49
  • Summarizing the background of the story and quoting just the key parts of the text. You weave in important phrases or lines of dialogue that work to support your point
    • Use example in the middle of page 49
  • Refer to Key details from the text in passing by writing something like this...
    • Use example at the bottom of page 49
Active Engagement: It is your turn to work on your boxes and bullets plan and to reread your story through the lens of your claim, collecting evidence.  

If extra time: Mid-Workshop Teaching

Teach: Appositives
Use page 52 to help teach 

Homework: Continue to grow evidence that fits your claim.  You need to be like a cook. Think ahead about what you will be making tomorrow (an Essay!) and whip up a quick shopping list of all the ingredients that you need to produce that essay tomorrow. 
Here is what you need:

  1. You need to introduce the text. Usually this means you will write some background information about it-almost a little tiny report.  The background information needs to include the author and the genre, and sometimes in includes a tiny summary of the story.
  2. You need a box-and-bullets plan so you can write a thesis, a claim, early in your essay and then have a plan for how you will organize the evidence you bring in to support your claim.  Will you be talking about the reasons for your claim, the ways it is true, the situations in which it is true, the way it is true in the start, the middle, the end of the story-or what?
  3. For each part of your essay, you will need compelling evidence. Some of the evidence will be told in micro-stories, some in lists, some in quotations-and sometimes the evidence is told through a combination of those.
  4. The evidence needs to come from all portions of the story: beginning, middle and ending.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Writing Workshop: Session 4 (Argument)

Crafting Claims

Connection:  Formulate a substantial idea

The other day I was out to lunch with a friend, and he asked me what I liked about this other friend of ours, who can be a bit difficult to get along with.  And the thing is, I had a hard time figuring out what to say, because my reasons didn't seem big enough. They didn't seem to quite capture why I like our friendship.  It was an annoying feeling, like my brain was failing.  I kept coming up with little things, with ideas that only showed a tiny part of her, like, "I like how she is really into video games."  or "She can be really nice sometimes."  But later on, when I had more time to think, I realized that the real reason I like this friend is that she sees the world in interesting ways, and helps me see it in those ways, too.  This felt like a real thing to say about my friend, but it was hard to get out.

The next step, as literary essayists, is to develop all the thinking you have done into an idea that is big enough to become your essay's central idea- its claim.

Teaching Point: 

Today I want to teach you that when literary essayists write about a character, they work hard to come up with an idea, a claim, that captures the whole of that person so the claim is big enough to think and write about for a while and can maybe even become the central idea of the entire essay.  (refer to anchor chart p.37)

Teaching and Active Engagement:

To come up with a strong claim about a character, it helps to reread one's entries and notes and to think again about the text, coming up with drafts of "possible claims."  

Discuss entries and ideas about Raymond's Run and ask "What is the main thing we really want to say about Squeaky?"

As I reread the following entry, try to come up with a claim that you think is big enough to encompass all of your important ideas about Squeaky.  Write it in your notebook.  

(Read entry p.37-38)

Have students share their claims.  Record their answers on chart paper.

Now let's look at the claims you generated and decide:

  • Which ones come the closest to capturing the essence of her? Which of these seems most encompassing of all sides of her and why do you say that? 
  • Or which ones seem one-sided?  
  • Also, think about whether a claim can be supported by the whole story (beginning, middle and end)

*This process involves not just choosing between a bunch of possible claims, but tweaking the claim that seems the closest to what you want to say and rewriting it over until it is just right.  It takes a lot of work to produce just 1 or 2 sentences.

Possible claim: Squeaky is fiercely protective of both her brother and herself.


Get with another student, or two- not more than two that have read the same short story as you (Stray or Thank You Ma'am).

Work together to come up with a list of possible claims.  Everyone needs to jot the ideas in their notebooks.  Then, start testing them out to see whether they fit with the whole character, and across the whole story.

  • you're searching not for facts about the character, but for ideas- for things that are not explicitly said in the story itself, but ideas that you thought up on your own
  • you can look over the writing you've collected about the text and ponder your thoughts about it


Let's review the Box and Bullets essay structure that we used with The Three Little Pigs essay.  

(Refer to figure 4-3, p.44) 

Now, start an outline for your essay.  Make sure to include your claim and topic sentences and your hunch about the evidence you'll include.


Tonight for homework, go back to your story and reread 2 sections and write about the details you see in those two sections and the ways those details reveal your character.  But this time, choose those passages because you are sure you will be writing about them in your essay.   Write at least 1-2 pages. 

Ex: For Raymond's Run, I would find a passage that is especially strong and relates to Squeaky being protective of her brother and another passage that is especially strong and relates to Squeaky being protective of herself.   

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Writing Workshop: Session 3 (Argument)

Writing to Discover What A Character Really Wants

Have you ever witnessed drama between friends and heard something like "The thing about her is that she just wants people to understand her and if she feels misunderstood, she flips out!"

Just like when you try to figure out why your peers flip out - Essayists try to figure out what motivates a character - they think about what does that character really want?

Today I want to teach you that when literary essayists are writing about characters, one way they make their ideas more powerful, more intriguing, is by looking beyond the obvious details about the characters to think about what motivates them --to figure out what the character really wants from other people and from life.

Let's look at Raymond Run's character Squeaky~

What does Squeaky want?

What motivates her to act all tough and prickly and defensive?

Think time...

The Thinker

Share your thinking (see manual page 27 for ideas to help guide discussion)

(Teacher brainstorm on chart paper what the class provides)

NEXT STEP: Take one of the ideas and think/write long about it in your journals.

*Point out - what people want on the surface (a new car, for people to stop picking on them) isn't usually what they want most of all, what they want deep inside.  What they really want is usually a feeling, a way of living, a new kind of relationship... It's human nature to want these things.*

Active Engagement:
Turn to your writing partners and pick one idea and talk about it first before they go and write long about it.

If you and your partner feel stuck at any point - go back and reread the story looking for more evidence for your idea.  You will probably find that your original idea will evolve and become more complicated~giving you more to think and write about!

Add "Think, 'What does the character really want?' and write long." Refer to the chart paper titled How to Write a Literary Essay about Character

Read the mentor entry and annotate about one thing that is really terrific that you could try and do.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Writing Workshop Session 2 (Argument)

Growing Big Ideas From Details about Characters

Connection: Remind students of the previous session tell them that today they will be working similar work, but on a larger scale.

Open your notebooks to the page where you wrote your revised essay about the 'Three Little Pigs,' and look it over, ask yourself one very important question: What did I learn from doing that essay that I can use again, when writing a more intellectually ambitious essay?

We are not going to talk about them right now but carry them with you, because starting today, you are going to work on a much more ambitious character essay.  Your essay will take 4 or 5 days to write, and it will be a lot better than the essays you whipped out yesterday.  But the process of writing these essays will be largely the same, it helps to start by thinking about the big claim that you want to make bout the text--and in this case, about the character.

Show chart of:
How to Write a Literary Essay about Character

Today I want to teach you that to get big ideas about texts-and eventually grow those ideas into a literary essay-it pays to notice important details the author has included about the character, and then to reflect on the author's purpose for including a detail, and to jot down those thoughts.

"Good books don't give up their secrets all at once." -Steven King

This tells us that there is great reward in paying attention to the details in stories, that if you do, you will uncover the big ideas that make the story important.  

In this BEND you will be writing essays about characters, paying attention to the details of a character is an especially important thing to do because characters are people.  Just like you can't know everything about a person the 1st time you glance at them, you can't know everything about a character the 1st time you meet the character in the pages of a story.  

Refer to Raymond's Run *each student should have a copy

-This story remember is about a tough girl with a brother who has some special needs and her discovery that even though he has problems, he's  great runner, just like she is.  

To grow a claim about Squeaky, the protagonist in this story, you and I need to do some work that you will also end up doing with whatever story you choose to work with later today.  

We are going to reread a part of the story that shows what the protagonist is like, and we need to reread closely, with pen in hand.  After we will need to take some of what we notice and think hard about why the author might have put in this particular detail.

Go right to a part of the story that shows the character. The 1st part of 'Raymond's Run' that you think shows Squeaky.  

Read the start of the story-as we read , underline details about Squeaky that show what she is like as a person. Then stop and think...

 Why might the author have chosen this particular detail?

Refer to page 16 for underlined parts.

Did some of you underline the phrase

I much rather just knock you down' like I did?

Show that you are thinking about why the author might have included this.

Chart: Thought Prompts that Help an Essayist Think and Write (page 17)

Using the chart, continue to discuss Squeaky's character.

Refer to the chart "How to Write a Literary Essay about a Character" (Chart page 20)

We are going to have another story to study.

With a partner: Read and annotate like we did for Raymond's run - specifically focusing on one character.  Annotate and underline details about the character -Ask yourself: why the author chose to reveal those details and what does it say about the character?

Tonight, reread your new story and your annotations.  Like the conversations we had in class about Squeaky, have a conversation with an imaginary partner about your new story on paper.  Use phrases like: "Yeah, but what about this...?"  to have a conversation of different ideas. 
Begin writing about your thoughts and develop ideas about your story's character.

Come tomorrow with your new story annotated and at least two pages of written ideas.