In the beginning of a text, students can ask themselves questions such as: At this point, it’s helpful to include a bit of whole-class discussion to support students’ analysis.
There is a huge leap in thinking to move from naming a character’s feelings to analyzing some of the issues that are emerging in a text.
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If the coaching was too heavy-handed, wouldn’t all students produce essentially the same piece?
The two ideas that resonate most with me about the fast essay work are that students don’t always need 4-6 weeks to compose a nice literary essay once they are familiar with essay structure and that talking in essay form is not only a sophisticated, important skill in its own stead, but it also serves as very powerful rehearsal for writing.We would love to hear more of your thoughts on writing about reading in a Two Writing Teachers community get-together of sorts. Please join us on February 3 at EST for a Twitter Chat on Writing about Reading. This is not to say that we should throw a writing process approach out the window and channel students to write quick, one-off, prompted pieces every day. Students must also learn to gather ideas, to draft and go through a lengthy revision process, to stay with a piece of writing over an extended period of time.It is the process approach that supports students in writing with volume, stamina and craft and through which they learn to write well.I was impressed with the way in which the unit supported them in developing skills at the intersection of reading and writing, the way it pushed them toward deeper interpretation and analysis of texts while also supporting them in writing well.The unit moves students thoughtfully through reading short texts, developing interpretations through writing, then selecting a thesis and evidence and crafting an essay over the course of about 4-6 weeks.My response is always that students need rehearsal and need concrete, specific models in order to write well.Also, there tends to be huge variation in the work that students produce.But it is in this leap that true interpretation begins to take place, and the groundwork for lovely big ideas or thesis statements is laid.For example, if a character is feeling picked on or ostracized because he is different from his peers, an issue that students may recognize as starting to emerge could be “people often don’t accept differences in others, but they should.” Or, “people are often afraid to be true to themselves because they don’t want to be made fun of.” Feel free to interject some of your own suggestions as models, particularly if students are struggling.