Introductions are the hardest

Ok, time for a triumphant post… or at least one that is not riddled with stress & frustration.  In the wake of missing weeks of school & being required to give a writing assessment that is, at best, pushing it, for 8yh graders, I had to find something specific to focus on for the 2.5 days I had to prepare my students.   

Often, the biggest complaint I have is that they don’t know how to start.   They don’t know how to relate a broad idea (heroes) to something specific in a thesis statement (Harriet Tubman was a heroic woman in a time when women, blacks, and children were all undervalued.).   So, Wednesday morning, I had one of those lightning in a bottle moments.   I wasn’t sure how it would work.   But… for the majority… success.   

The idea:  Give students 15(ish) minutes to research anything that they would want to talk about….  Nike, basketball, Justin Beiber, whatever.  Then, students were to craft an introduction to a speech.   

The rules:  It had to be a full introduction.  They had to share if their number was called.  

The guidelines:  DO NOT:   “Today, I’m going to talk about”, “I think or I believe”, “Probably/Maybe”, “In my story”

                          DO:  Begin with a quote, question or statistic, Make a statement (own your argument, this IS truth instead of I believe, in my opinion.).

The presentation rules:  Students were only allowed to tell what their classmates did well.  I have a group this year that is, seemingly incapable or, perhaps, unwilling, to be kind to each other, so I was the only one who could give advice or make any comments other than, “I like that you…. “

The results:  Much better, more interesting introductions.  Students who felt capable of writing an introduction.   And students who felt more prepared for their assessment.   ***apparently, a few thought I was confusing but that happens.

So, all-in-all, I may begin my essay writing instructions this way next year.   I still often feel lost and inadequate teaching writng, but I won’t give up….  Thanks to my friends & super writing instructors who keep me on track & encourage me when I struggle!



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