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Guidance needed for upper level thinkers who are lower level writers (m)

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*I posted this on the K-8 curricular board by accident. So I copied and pasted here. Is there another way to "move" a post?



I'm teaching in our co-op this year. We are using Sonlight 200 history. It is painfully and embarrassingly obvious that these kids cannot write at the high school level


I'm trying to do 2 things simultaneously and I'm not sure how to go about it. I would like to teach them basic essay writing simultaneously with teaching them to think through a topic such as slavery (how slavery in the Bible compares to slavery in the British empire). I want them to do research and come to a conclusion.


I think I might be overwhelming them by doing both. But teaching writing using themes that are outside of their reading and discussion seems nonsensical to me. They will still have to write for their history class.


I'm really looking for only a 1 page paper at this point. I'm a bit at a loss as to how much "hand holding" to do. I have sent home handouts about thesis statements, topic sentences, paragraph construction, etc. yet I get papers that do not follow any of these! Obviously the kids aren't reading them or can't figure out how to implement them. I don't have enough time in class to go over all of this (we assumed the kids had a good grasp of basic grammar) as well as help the kids work through the topic.


I would appreciate any advice you all can give. The high school level is very late to just begin learning the essay, but that's where we are and I need to make the most use of the little time I have. HELP!

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by that I mean laying out a basic structure (intro, 3 body paragraphs, conclusion) and helping them brainstorm thesis statements and body paragraph ideas together with you in class.


Then send them home with a "skeleton" essay that includes a thesis statement and topic sentences for each of the body paragraphs. Give them general direction on what to put in the body paragraphs and where they should look for the information.


When they come back the next week, walk them through the process of writing a concluding paragraph.


I remember feeling unsure how to begin an essay in high school, and once the teacher talked me through the process of coming up with an outline, I was able to fill in the details and flush out the content. After receiving this type of help several times, I got the hang of structuring the essay myself.


If this type of methodology isn't enough detail for the students, you may have to go back a bit and show them how to outline from a source and write from that outline.


Best wishes with your noble task,


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Sounds like they need the basics of a five paragraph essay but you aren't their English teacher! Here's an online site that helps, maybe and I'll link another too that covers the basics of the essay. IF it were the start of the year, Put That in Writing Vol 2 would work well becasue you could substitute YOUR writing assignments for her's and still get the writing instruction.








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I taught Spanish 1 and 2. I found that the students needed basic instuction in notetaking, keeping a notebook, and in study skills. Many of them had never taken tests, or if they had, they went directly from finishing a chapter to taking a test, as though it were simply the next assignment. They had no concept of studying, reviewing, summarizing, memorizing, grappling with material til they mastered it, nor how to take mid-terms or cumulative tests. Some of the old-timers on the boards probably remember me coming and venting on the boards during those two years! :)


So, my solution was to offer (that's a misnomer, it was mandatory) "workshops". I had a class of parents who were cooperative and wanted their students to learn, so it worked out well. You may not be that fortunate, but I hope you are. If you can show the parents that they students really need to get up to par in this area and can demonstrate their need, perhaps you can sell the parents on making the kids available for a workshop outside of class.


Several other ideas:


-I'd recommend that your first writing assignments be fairly simple topics related to your material, ones that you've discussed throroughly in class and that do *not* require outside research, and ask them to write in the required format on that topic. (One skill/focus at a time...IOW, build up to the research.)


- I'd invite the parents to your workshop. After walking the group through a 5 P essay format and a well-done sample essay or two, I'd then hand out a deficient paper or two that have been turned in...perhaps not from your students, if you think that will be too painful. Ask them to evaluate whether there is any discernable format, purpose (thesis), or logical progression to the paper.


(On the format sheet, on the "good essays," and on the poor ones, I might even have the class highlight in color the various parts--hook, thesis, opening and summarizing sentences in the Ps, transitions, supporting statements, etc.) This is really writing 101, but it is surprising how many of us are intimidated by it and have a hard time teaching it to our students.


In class, when you a ready to tackle a different kind of paper, a compare and contrast, an analysis, etc. you'll probably need to teach the new format, just as you did in your workshop.


Sigh--thank you for not being afraid to tackle the big ones! I expect to be remembered by my students as making them work like they never had before...hopefully, it will serve them well.



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Thanks for the encouragement. I've decided to take a lot more time with the students on this essay. In fact, I had scheduled 2 more essays for the rest of the year, but I think I'll back off that and just try to get this one essay down well. I think the kids will be better served learning the essay well rather than writing several poorly.


Many thanks!


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