In high school English classes, students read a novel or piece of literature, and they are told to write an essay. They may have a few class discussions of the literature, and they may get some help with a thesis statement, but usually, they don’t get the instruction they need. High school students must read literature, think deeply about the essential ideas, and synthesize all of it into an essay. This is no easy task!
They have to know how to:
- do a close read of a literary text.
- understand the text
- analyze and evaluate a text
- synthesize background information with an interpretation of the text
- organize all of these ideas
- prepare evidence, analysis, counter-arguments, and rebuttals
- present the ideas in a broad, relevant context
- write a beautiful essay
Students deserve more explicit instruction and support. This is a better way. We break all of this into digestible components, so students can master the concepts, thinking, and skills. We know what they need to have success.
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
Students should know how to write a 5-paragraph essay and have an understanding of how to elaborate on main ideas. Two classes for building these skills are:
A. Foundations of Essay Writing
B. Essay Essentials
Day 1–After a review of various genres of writing, students begin to understand that literary analysis is argumentative writing. Using a short film, the instructor models the literary analysis paragraph. Then, building critical reading skills, students read and discuss a short story, analyzing it for the theme and the way the author developed the theme. After doing some pre-writing and thinking, they write a practice paragraph.
Day 2–The class reads the short story “The Landlady” by Roald Dahl, which is a high-interest horror story. Students learn the most difficult component of the essay: the introduction. They learn various techniques for hooking their readers, how to introduce their broad topic and then how to narrow it, and how to end with an effective thesis statement that stakes a claim while giving a concession. The instructor models these difficult components of the intro before they write their own introductions, all while receiving helpful feedback from the instructor.
Day 3 & 4–Students learn how to develop a body paragraph. It is here they delineate evidence and analysis. They learn to integrate their evidence, which are quotes from the literature, in a way that is coherent and flows with the rest of the text. They have workshop time to write and get support from the instructor. At this point, they are writing their body paragraphs.
Day 5–Students learn how to write a concluding paragraph that leaves their reader thinking. They do the opposite of what they did in the introduction. In the conclusion, they will broaden their topic so that their essay has a larger significance.
Day 6–Now it’s time to revise and edit the essay for word choice and sentence fluency. The instructor will teach various techniques to make students’ essays stronger with powerful word choices and unique and stylistic sentence structures. They will learn how to format an essay to follow the MLA style guide, including a Works Cited page. Students also learn the importance of the revision and editing process using editing technology.
The Lemons-Aid Way: Our Approach to Teaching & Learning is Explicit!
Explicit teaching is a method of instruction students desperately need! 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.
Anita Archer trained Mrs. Lemons in workshops, and it changed her teaching. All Lemons-Aid courses follow this philosophy in the form of I DO, WE DO, YOU DO. We move students forward toward mastery of skills.
High School Writing Series:
This class is part of a series that prepares students to do dual enrollment college classes or are entering college. The series gets progressively more difficult and are scheduled in order. You can still jump in whenever you’d like! Completion of all of these classes, which takes about 6 months will cover all necessary high school writing! They make up a complete high school writing plan.
Live: Foundations of Essay Writing (5 weeks/10 classes)
Self-Paced: Essay Essentials
Live: Argumentative Writing (5 weeks/10 classes)
Live: Pen to Paper: Essential High School Writing – The Literary Analysis Essay (3 weeks/6 classes)
Live: This, That, & the Other: The Historical Research Essay / Term Paper (7 weeks/14 classes)
Live: The College Essay (4 days)