Essay of the Month

Writing.  It is always such a struggle of a topic for me to teach.  No wonder though...it is just hard.  Trying to convey your thoughts about any given topic in a coherent, organized manner takes even seasoned authors draft after draft after draft to do.  So it is no wonder that our students (and teacher bloggers ;) ) struggle with it.  (I have written this introduction myself about 5 times trying to get it just right!)

So last year, I decided to try and make writing a bit easier for my students (and help them actually get some writing time in daily) with Paragraph of the Week.  And what do you know??  It worked!  The kids' writing became so much clearer and organized, and they actually started to think of writing as an EASY task!

But, as you all know, I teach 5th grade.  Writing one, single paragraph, no matter how good it is, is just not enough.  The standards (Common Core or otherwise) call for MULTIPLE paragraph essays, so I was stuck in the same situation as before.

I had always done the "I Do, You Do" method of essay writing.  I would guide the students through the entire writing process, modeling every step of the way.  It would produce nice essays.  The problem:  cold, prompt writing.  They just couldn't do it without me.   This really is unacceptable.  It is not good enough if they can produce writing WITH me if they can't do it WITHOUT me.  I haven't done my job as a teacher.

So I have been wracking my brain, trying to figure out a way to teach my kids how to write a good, organized, coherent essay...the same way they do with one paragraph.  How could I make Paragraph of the Week extend to multiple paragraphs, no matter the genre?  After months and months of thought, I think I have it.  Essay of the Month.

It is based on the same principles as POTW.  Students write a little bit each day, using graphic organizers to help them along the way.  They start with the body, and then move on to the introduction and concluding paragaphs.  All the while, they keep the prompt in mind.  Students use checklists and rubrics to help them revise and edit until they ultimately end up with a published final draft.  

I think by focusing on the STRUCTURE of writing (as all genres basically are the same as far as structure goes...it is the craft of it all that changes them) I will better be able to help my students create good, basic essays.  Once they have the structure down, craft will become a focus where we can work on things like voice and style.
Can you see the organizers they use to make the body paragraphs?  So similar to POTW, I know my kids are going to do great with this!!!
I am SO excited about this!  I really think...no, I KNOW it is going to help my students become more competent authors who aren't scared to tackle writing anymore. They are so good with Paragraph of the Week, that this Essay of the Month is just going to take them to that next level.  YAY!!!

How do you help your students transition from single paragraph writing to multiple paragraph essays?

12 comments

  1. I like this idea! I need to incorporate more writing into my ELA class. This just might do the trick!

    Sara :)
    The Colorful Apple

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  2. I found myself nodding as I read this post - I find writing SO hard to teach! My students are really struggling this year - especially with introductions and conclusions. I give them strategies and ideas, but they are sticking straight to my prompts and are having trouble crafting ideas on their own. I will definitely check out both your Paragraph of the Week and Essay of the Month packets - my kids could really use the help! :)

    ~Jessica
    Joy in the Journey

    ReplyDelete
  3. I don't know how to teach writing, but I like the idea of Essay of the Week. When my Jacob was in 5th grade, he won a national essay contest that our friends at Character Counts! was offering. Here's a link if you want to read it ... basically you had to pick a quote that you liked and write about it:

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    Barbara

    Barbara

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  4. I absolutely love your Paragraph of the Week! I started doing it mid-January or so and saw real improvement! I have added your Essay of the Week to my wish list and will be getting it soon. Thank you for another great idea! Happy Thanksgiving, my American friend!
    -Lisa
    Grade 4 Buzz

    ReplyDelete
  5. I use outlining. An old, but trusted skill. That is an amazing tool. Add some mind mapping to start you off, and voila, the next thing you know you have a huge awesome essay.

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  6. I just started using your Paragraph a Week the past 2 weeks. I really like it and my students are writing better. I look forward to using this Essay a Month. I appreciate your putting these things together.

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  7. I don\'t savvy to show writing, however i favor the concept of Essay of the Week. once my Jacob was in 5th grade, he won a national essay contest that our friends at Character Counts! was providing. Here\'s a link if you would like to scan it ... essentially you had to select a quote that you just liked and write on it

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  10. Really love the way the kids can explore and collect ideas FIRST and start writing!

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