Friday, April 5, 2013

Introducing Fourth-Graders To Essays

 As the Writing Coordinator in our district, I don't always get to teach lessons but I love hearing from the teachers about how a lesson, especially one within a new unit goes. Yesterday, when I stopped into a classroom before school, one of the teachers shared the lesson that she'd done the day before and was happy to hear that I would blog about it.

We are beginning a unit on research-based essays in fourth grade, but the students do not have much experience with writing essays, so, with the guidance of out Teachers College Staff Developer, Emily Smith, we developed a weeklong introduction to the concept of essays. The class started with whole-group instruction annotating a mentor essay that Emily had written. With her students, this teacher had students identify the thesis statement, the reasons, evidence, topic sentences, and the conclusion.

After the whole class instruction, students went off with another mentor essay to mark up in partners and individually. (I did not photograph these, but the process was similar to the one shown above.) Some of the students worked in small groups so that the teacher could provide more instruction to them, while others worked independently so that she could make sure that they were understanding the concepts of an essay.

Right after writing workshop, this class heads to recess and lunch so an exit slip works especially well  as a quick formative essay. Students responded to the following prompt:

While certainly one of the assessment take-aways is that the student on the left needs to learn how to spell thesis (make sure you look closely at the response on the left!), these quick assessments definitely showed that students are understanding the important concepts of essays. On Monday, the plan is to teach "Claim and Frame", a box and bullet strategy. I can't wait to see what students learn!

Take care,


  1. Finally got the time to read this. I like the way you're approaching Melanie & will look for the next post. Guess some spelling work is also in order (tehe) Thanks for the clear explanation!

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