Earlier this month, we composed our first literary argument paragraph, a stepping stone to an extended piece of writing we’ll do in early November as part of our work from the writing unit, The Literary Essay: Analyzing Craft and Theme.
Part 1: Introducing and Immersing Ourselves in a Paired Text
Let me start by backing up into late September. We had just finished our study of “Thank You Ma’m” and took a day to read/listen to “Kindness” by Naomi Shihab Nye, a great paired text companion to this short story. We began by reading the poem together and took a second pass at reading it by listening to Nye read it herself. For the first reading, I simply asked students to listen; on the second reading, I asked students to complete these tasks as we listened and read:
- Read along as we listen.
- Circle any words that get your attention as being descriptive or vivid or unusual.
- Continue to think about the mood of the poem and the words that create that mood or feeling.
We then reviewed our annotation strategies notes from Cris Tovani and Beers/Probst.
Next, we listened to Nye tell us a little of the backstory about the poem. I then asked students to complete three high quality annotations of the poem, showing them an annotated model I had completed for another poem to help them. Once students had time to re-read and complete three annotations, I asked them to choose his/her best annotation. We then used the whole group share structure “Everyone Up!“; students were asked to share his/her best annotation and the passage he/she annotated. Finally, we completed our thinking with a reflection Ticket Out the Door (see last photo below).
Part 2: Comparing/Contrasting the Paired Texts
Our next step was to compare and contrast “Thank You Ma’m” and “Kindness” using this marvelous graphic organizer from Stacy Lloyd. I actually modified it a bit to help my students cover all the bases with their thinking points and included some scaffolding at their table to help them remember the terminology. It took most students two days to complete this thinking task.
Part 3: Drafting the Literary Argument Paragraph
Our culminating activity that is a stepping stone to an essay we’ll do in about two weeks was composing a literary argument paragraph. After students completed the compare/contrast activity, we reviewed the writing task 1:1, and I asked students to choose the claim statement he/she felt he/she could best argue.
Students received plenty of scaffolding to help them draft their paragraph; I provided highlighters to help them color code each piece of their draft.
I placed plenty of these at every table in my neon sheet protectors to help students as they drafted.
For those who needed even more scaffolding, I put together a graphic organizer to help them see each piece of the paragraph as they composed and highlighted.
The result was some of the best writing my students have completed so far this year. As they completed their drafts, we conferenced, and it was so heartwarming to see their confidence in themselves and pride in their work!
These learning activities pushed my students’ thinking, and the culminating paragraph was a big step forward for my 8th grade writers. How do you support higher level thinking and writing tasks?