As we are approaching the end of third quarter, it is time for fourth grade to prepare for our writing assessment. We have been writing literary essays that analyze the character, theme, or message of a short story. An important part of preparing for our assessment is revising, editing, and publishing our final pieces. This process can be very difficult for students, but through my Learning Lab experience I found a great lesson to help my students get a deeper understanding of why we need to return to our writing and how to make it better.
The lesson looked at two literary essay examples, one which was stronger than the other, and asked the students to analyze certain parts of the essays. First we looked at Example 1 and focused on the thesis and supporting reasons. The students asked themselves if the author had clearly stated his/her claim and if the author supported that claim with details that made sense. The students also looked for supporting evidence from the text and the author's life. After looking at the thesis and supporting reasons in Example 1, we then focused on the lead and conclusion of the same essay. In fourth grade, the students are expected to create an introduction that "hooks" their readers and to state their claim. The conclusion should restate the thesis and give a call to action for the reader. After analyzing the lead and conclusion we reread Example 1 again in its entirety, looking for the transitions in the text. The students used Talking Chips to discuss Example 1 with their team. It was impressive to hear how much the kids could pick out from the text.
When we finished with Example 1 we moved on to Example 2, which was the stronger piece. I did not tell the students that this was the stronger piece because I wanted them to come to that conclusion on their own throughout the activity. We completed the same steps with Example 2 and I heard lots of great discussion in their teams about what made this essay stronger than the first. Here is an example of what the students completed during this lesson.
The next step of the lesson was to take what we learned from the two example pieces and go back into our own writing to make it stronger. The students could look at Example 1 and tell their team everything the author needed to do to make his/her argument stronger, but sometimes struggle looking at their own essay and determining what they need to add or remove. It was eye-opening for them to see that sometimes we write like the author did in Example 1 and we do not even realize it. They were able to focus on the same parts (thesis and supporting reasons, lead, conclusion, and transitions) of their essay and make them better.
It is incredibly important for students to revisit their writing on a regular basis to make it stronger by revising and editing. Sometimes it helps for them to see a strong example because it helps them realize what they need to do in their own writing. The students were very engaged and able to identify key parts in the examples that were strong or weak. Our next step will be to take our essays and compare them to the fourth grade checklist. Finally, when that is complete, we will publish our writing!
Here is a piece of student writing that was revised and edited after the activity: