- The Power in Your Hands: Writing Nonfiction in High School.
- Related Stories.
- Power of refocusing student stress in middle school transition!
Contact Us. In this power lesson shared by high school English teacher Cynthia Ruiz , students write their own personal statements of belief. The essay pushes students to write about something that matters to them and helps them get to know each other on a deeper level. I know building relationships with students is important and a way to get to know them is through their writing, so I did some research to see what other teachers were trying.
I wanted to give everyone plenty of time to write but held them to a firm deadline of having four weeks to work. I made it clear that students had a lot of choice regarding both content and format. The biggest restriction came directly from the This I Believe site: a word limit. I know a lot of writing teachers are divided when it comes to word count, but I figured it was still better than giving a specific number of required paragraphs and sentences.
Over the spring semester, we spent a lot of time reviewing both rhetorical and literary devices anaphora, hypothetical questions, simile and I told students to focus on the devices they genuinely felt comfortable using. Because the rubric leaves room for a lot of choice, I encouraged students to visit the featured essays site and not only read, but listen to real examples.
I also made it a point to tell them our end goal was to share this essay with their entire class by way of a gallery walk. Can be feelings, symbols, names, events, etc.
- cover letter for entry level consulting position.
- Related Resources.
- good world literature essay.
- research paper self injury!
After students generated this list, I asked them to consider what they wanted to write about and share with others. I wanted them to imagine a larger audience and think outside of meeting my expectations. For some, deciding what to write about was easy and they began drafting immediately. However, the majority of students struggled not so much with what they believe, but how to write about it. Even though they appreciated having so much choice, they still needed some direction to get started. I asked them to focus on why they remember what they remember, and whether or not it impacts any of their beliefs.
I emphasized that these phrases did not have to be included in their final products, but should help generate ideas. Because of block scheduling, I gave students about a week and a half to complete a working draft, which required having at least two paragraphs of their essay done. I only gave a portion of two to three class periods to actually write in class; students were expected to write on their own time. I asked students to refer to the rubric and focus on voice and vocabulary strategies.
Questions I told them to consider were: Does this sound like me? Do I talk like this to my friends or family? I gave students the option of reviewing their own essays or partnering up with someone to peer edit. Again, this was the end of the year, so we had already established a pretty firm community of trust in class.
Students were very concerned with whether or not they were making sense, if they should add more, or if they were being too repetitive, rather than only being concerned about capitalization, spelling, and grammatical errors. The culmination of this assignment was when the essays were shared in a gallery walk. The gallery walk is my answer to having students write for a larger audience, and it really helps this essay become about what students have to say instead of just another grade.
With a gallery walk, not only are students thinking about what they wrote, but they have the opportunity to think about what their classmates wrote as well. I printed each essay without any names, and made sure any identifying statements were revised. Because not every student turned in a final copy, I printed additional copies of some completed essays to ensure every student had something to read during our gallery walk, instead of drawing attention to the two or three students who did not finish the assignment.
I placed the essays on different tables throughout the room and allowed students to move around as needed; some chose to stand and read an essay, others opted to sit, while others sprawled out on the floor to read. I played soft music and asked that the room volume stay quiet enough to be able to hear the music at all times. Did you read this one yet? Who wrote this? I might cry. Good tears, though. I periodically checked to make sure no one was being inappropriately critical or just leaving cute hearts or check marks. I wanted students to think about what they were reading, and understand that feedback is a crucial part of the writing process.
After about 40 minutes, each essay had received multiple written comments, looking similar to the picture below:. Overall, the feedback was uplifting and actually created a sense of belonging in each class. A few said they wished they had written this essay sooner.
I was floored by some of the essays I received. Some made me laugh, some made me gasp, some made me cry. Compared to the typical papers I usually assign, this essay allowed my students to not just think about what they were writing but to care about their writing and to be intentional in the language they were using, both in word choice and rhetorical strategies, because it was about what they believe.
It is some of the strongest student writing I have ever received as an English teacher. From a student who by all outward appearances, comes from a traditional family. From a student battling depression and anxiety. Although this essay helped end the year with a strong sense of community, I think teachers could easily have students write it at the beginning of the school year or even in January at the start of a new year.
Short essay on importance of good friends
Have you taught a lesson or designed a learning experience we should feature in Power Lessons? Categories: Instruction. Tags: English language arts , power lessons. I love the connection built during the gallery walk. I can imagine this being truly powerful for all students.
Well done! I LOVE this!!
Sixth graders taught to see transition turmoil as 'normal, temporary' perform better in class
I will use this in the Spring with my students. The excerpts in the blog post were so personal. I hope the students realize what a gift they shared. Tonya, I agree. I love this assignment. I use it every semester with Public Speaking students, following a similar brainstorm and drafting process. Since the assignment comes from a radio program, my students audio record themselves, and our celebration of the work happens through hearing each student read the essay.
Very powerful hearing their voices!
Ruth, thanks so much for taking the time to share this idea. Writing is such a great way to express oneself and when you make it personal students are engaged. I am thinking about adding it as my last assignment for my 3rd graders! This will help inspire my students to share important details about their lives. I like this writing strategy. Last week I started something similar with my Arabic students. In groups of 3 to 4 students, they wrote stories Brainstorm, first draft… They started writing their final draft with illustrations and drawings on the butcher paper.
I use at the end of the year with my seniors. I tell them to focus on a belief that they have formed over their past years of school and that will guide them as they make steps on their next journey — college, military, work, etc. Every year I am awed by the thought and pride they take in it. Their voices shine through the papers.
The emotions, ranging from joy to sadness or humor to regret, overtake their essay making each both personal and universal. I also always write one that I individualize for each class and how they have shaped or firmed one of my own beliefs. I hope that I can use it effectively with my middle schoolers. Thank you so much for sharing this! This was my first lesson in my first year of teaching and it completely set the tone for the rest of the year. The work I received from eleven year olds blew my mind, and I even submitted with their permission a few pieces to be published because they were that deep.