It’s More Than Just a 5-Paragraph Essay!
Many students know how to organize a five-paragraph essay, but they struggle to generate ideas that fully support their thesis. They aren’t quite sure how to develop body paragraphs that are clear, fully elaborated, and effective. Some find it impossible or very difficult to write an introduction and conclusion that are more than just a couple of sentences. While students will certainly learn how to organize an essay, we teach skills that equip learners to embrace any writing task with confidence and skill. This happens when they are explicitly taught how to do something, followed by guidance and feedback on their independent practice. Students must understand and master these foundational skills for success in high school, college, and work.
High Expectations in a Supportive Community:
In this class, the instructor works to build respectful relationships with each student and to build an online community. We establish a supportive and encouraging environment. This class has a high level of student interaction–students will answer questions and use the chatbox regularly. If we don’t hear from a student, we ask them if everything is okay. We push students to improve their writing, both for function and style. Further, we pull up their essays as they write and give feedback on the spot. Since our goal is to keep their minds engaged, to keep them writing, and to learn new skills, we encourage students (but don’t force them) to keep cameras on. Quieter students will do fine because they engage with their teacher in the chatbox. We want to honor the investment parents make in this class and the time students spend. The goal is to build skills and learn! That means students are working, thinking, and writing.
The Way We Roll:
Student Motivation & Accountability–Learners participate in interactive lessons during their homework time, which includes competitive quizzes. This class utilizes competition in the first couple of weeks, which is highly motivating for many. For those that don’t enjoy competition, they can sit back and watch. It’s all okay! We use “workshop time” in class so students will write while the teacher “visits” them on their Google Document. Once we started using this method, we saw nearly a 100% completion rate in student essays!
Homework–Students can expect to have homework after each live class. They will work 15-45 minutes, depending on the assignment and how quickly they work. Students receive authentic and constructive feedback from the instructor that helps students correct their mistakes and fine-tune their skills. We integrate grammar in all aspects of instruction, and we hold students to a high standard of academic writing. We achieve this through daily mini-lessons and practice with sentence writing and using various sentence starters.
Graphic Organizers–Students need graphic organizers to help them see the structure of a paragraph or essay and the writing process. This is how they learn to develop coherent ideas. They don’t figure out how to do this magically; the graphic organizers and the intentional, explicit teaching help them learn the skills!
Student Mastery--Each class includes explicit, direct instruction with teacher modeling. Students are guided toward mastery of multiple writing skills and understandings so that they grasp the concepts and become independent. Students are held to a high standard of academic writing, including the use of grammar and the construction of sophisticated sentences.
Teacher Feedback–The back-and-forth work between a student and teacher significantly benefits a student if it is done well. We follow best practices in this area with how we design class time, assignments, and routines. According to Pennington Publishing, • effective writing feedback (or grading) is:
• Specific, not general
• Immediate, not postponed
• Routine with a revision / feedback cycle
• The right amount
• Targeted to the most critical issues
• Varied (written, audio, and video comments)
• Holding students accountable
- Day 1-2 – Students learn to differentiate between writing genres. They will annotate example essays to see how they are structured and organized. Direct instruction includes aspects of expository, narrative, and opinion writing as well as the organization of an expository piece.
- Day 3-7 – Students learn how body paragraphs are structured with topic sentences, concluding sentences, and organized ideas. Direct instruction includes generating ideas using brainstorming, sorting, two rules of thumb, and four elaboration techniques. Writing is thinking, and the skill of organizing thoughts is essential. Students also learn how to generate research questions and then find answers, a process that improves their essay’s ideas and interest level. Students practice these techniques and then write their body paragraphs independently, all while receiving helpful feedback from the instructor. We use workshop time once they start writing their own essay on Day 5.
- Day 8 – Students learn the most difficult component of the essay: the introduction. They learn six different techniques for hooking their readers, how to write an effective thesis statement, and how to bridge the gap between the hook and thesis statement. Students practice writing parts of introductions, and they write their own introductions independently with helpful feedback from the instructor.
- Day 9-10 – Students learn how to write a concluding paragraph that leaves their reader thinking by using four different techniques. These techniques are practiced, and they write their own conclusions independently. The instructor will teach various techniques to strengthen students’ essays with powerful word choices and unique and stylish sentence structures. They will learn how to format an essay to follow the MLA style guide, including a Works Cited page.
For a Self-Paced version (self-paced with no live classes) of this class, click the link below. Students receive just as much feedback from the instructor as the live class.
For students that need a little more practice with these skills, they can take Essay Writing 911.
Essay Writing 911 Class
The Lemons-Aid Way: Our Approach to Teaching & Learning is Explicit!
Explicit teaching is a method of instruction students desperately need! It is the opposite of a constructivist philosophy whereby students ponder and explore to construct meaning themselves. Well…
Instead of leaving students to magically figure out how to write an essay, we teach explicitly, which is backed by a large body of evidence, and it’s how Mrs. Lemons teaches her undergraduate and graduate teacher-candidates in college to teach! We do it this way because it’s how kids learn.
Explicit instruction is “a structured, systematic, and effective methodology for teaching academic skills. It is called explicit because it is an unambiguous and direct approach to teaching that includes both instructional design and delivery procedures. Explicit instruction is characterized by a series of supports or scaffolds, whereby students are guided through the learning process with clear statements about the purpose and rationale for learning the new skill, clear explanations and demonstrations of the instructional target, and supported practice with feedback until independent mastery has been achieved.”
-Explicit Instruction: Effective and Efficient Teaching by Anita L. Archer and Charles A. Hughes.
Get to know Mrs. Lemons a little more.