It's been a crazy couple of weeks at Grover! With NJASK testing for all three grades levels, we have been following a modified schedule for two weeks.
The week before testing began, we were able to make significant progress with the research-based argumentative essay for Model Congress. Students completed their "t-charts", organizing the main supporting and opposing ideas for their thesis statements. As research continued in Social Studies, students began actually planning the essay in IRLA. We tweaked our thesis statements; selected the main idea for each body paragraph (based on the arguments we accumulated with the t-chart), using a "simple format" outline; and began to organize our research into the appropriate paragraphs, using an "extended format" outline. We reviewed all the components of an essay and the parts of each paragraph (including the introduction, rebuttal body paragraph, each supporting body paragraph, and the conclusion). As students outlined, we also reviewed how to create internal parenthetical citations based on the full citations created on NoodleTools. We discussed the importance of including in-text citations--which refer readers back to full citations on the bibliography--with all paraphrased and directly quoted support.
We also reviewed the difference between paraphrased and directly quoted support, and we discussed when and why a writer may include each type. Students practiced paraphrasing research using a set of steps and strategies provided to them. Finally, on Friday, students actually drafted the essay by hand, using all of the planning materials from class (t-chart, simple outline, and extended outline).
During 7th grade testing week, students had time in the computer lab to type their first drafts. On the Friday after testing, students brought in a completed typed first draft, and we began the revision process. We reviewed the rubric for the assignment (available on my website), and students began critically questioning their own writing using a checklist with a series of questions designed to make students think about how well each paragraph fulfills its intended purpose. This revision checklist-- created from the rubric-- also required the students to consider the overall effect of the essay and its persuasive power/relevance in today's world.
During 6th grade testing week, we were "displaced" from our classrooms until 11am each day. During this time, the 7th grade watched a series of movies connected to the Social Studies curriculum. Teams 7G and 7S also used this time to continue working on the Model Congress essay. Students met in their committees for the first time, reading each other's essays, comparing research, and making a plan for further individual revision work needed. This was a good opportunity for students to evaluate their arguments and support based on other students who researched the same topic. In their committees, students also began to plan the bill they will eventually write together. We reviewed the parts of a bill, and committees identified the problem they need to solve with the possible solutions their bill will include.
In the afternoon, when students had IRLA, we continued our individual revision work, focusing on topic and concluding sentences. We worked on making sure our concluding sentences connected back to the thesis statement without sounding too repetitive. Students continued to use the revision checklist to critically analyze their own writing.
On Friday, students brought in a revised 2nd draft. After the Wordly Wise test (units 17 and 18), students began editing their essays. Students received an editing strategy list, reviewing all the grammar concepts we have covered so far this year. Final drafts are coming in this week, and committee work will continue. As we move closer to live debate in our mock congress sessions, I hope the energy and student engagement levels will continue to rise. I'm looking forward to getting back to our normal routine and normal schedule now that testing is finally over!