Personal Essay: Grade 4 Writing Unit 2



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On-Demand Personal Essay Pre-Assessment
Instructions

Students should be at their regular writing seats and will need loose-leaf paper and pencils. They need to be able to add pages if they want. Write the following statement on the board:


Some people judge others by the way they look instead of what is on the inside.”
Tell students:

Read the statement, “Some people judge others by the way they look instead of what is on the inside” aloud from the board. Have the students think about whether or not they agree with the statement.


“Let’s each write our opinion about this big idea – a piece that shows our best work. You will have an hour to write your opinion about this big idea and think of stories from your life and in the world that you can use to support your opinion. Use everything you know about good writing.”
Have students begin their opinion writing.

Note

This on-demand assessment shows what students know about essay writing to write about a given idea. Score these essays using the Personal Essay Assessment Rubric located at the end of this unit. Use the same rubric to score their published essays at the end of this unit to show what they have learned.




Session 1

Concept

Writers generate ideas for writing personal essays.

Teaching Point

Writers analyze the content and structure of personal essays.




References

Materials

  • Lucy Calkins Units of Study for Teaching Writing, Grades 3-5, Book 3: Breathing Life Into Essays, Lucy Calkins

  • Chicken Soup for the Kid’s Soul, Jack Canfield, et.al.

  • Chicken Soup for the Kid’s Soul 2, Jack Canfield, et.al.




  • Anchor charts:

  • Enlarged copies of the following class-sized essays:

  • The Genuine Van Gogh,” from Chicken Soup for the Kid’s Soul 2

  • Lessons in Friendship” from Chicken Soup for the Kid’s Soul 2

  • Copies of the following essays for each group:

  • The Power of Attitude” from Chicken Soup for the Kid’s Soul 2

  • Things Are Not Always Black or White” from Chicken Soup for the Kid’s Soul

  • Two-column charts for each group




Notes

  • In this session, students will be reading and discussing personal essays in small groups to immerse them in this genre. Plan ahead for group assignments.

Connection

  • Explain that students will begin a new writing unit of study today. They will start by looking at the structure and content of personal essays. In personal essays, the author advances a theme of personal significance.

Demonstration/

Teaching

  • Explain that essays are always organized around a topic or important idea. Authors present their opinion, or perspective, related to an important idea, and then they argue their position in their essays.

  • Explain that today students will study the important ideas and evidence, or support, for those ideas in essays. They will learn more about forming an opinion, or taking a perspective, in a few days.

  • Share the personal essay, “The Genuine Van Gogh,” and examine the introduction to identify the important idea. Explain how the body of the essay includes evidence for this important idea in the form of an experience.

  • Record the important idea and the evidence on a class-sized Examining the Structure of Essays chart.

Active Engagement

  • Have students help you do this same work that you just demonstrated using the essay, “Lessons in Friendship.”

  • Summarize the process for the students.

Link

Writers, you will be working in groups today to explore two other personal essays. You will be reading them to determine the important ideas and the evidence that supports the important ideas. You will be recording this information on a two-column chart for each group.

Writing and

Conferring

  • Conduct small group conferences. Listen to and help students identify the important ideas and understand how the evidence relates to each important idea.

Mid-Workshop Teaching Point

  • Have two or three groups of students share the important ideas and evidence from their personal essays and add them to the class chart. Summarize the thinking the students used.

Share


  • Convene students in the meeting area.

  • Bring closure to today’s workshop by using the Comparing Narratives and Essays chart to do a side-by side comparison of a narrative and an essay.

  • Review each characteristic of narratives using a familiar narrative text as an example. Review each characteristic of essays using an essay as an example.

  • Students should be able to identify texts that are read aloud as narrative or essay and explain why.

  • Explain that although there are differences between these two kinds of writing, there are also similarities. Both kinds of writing are made from ideas and stories. In narrative writing, the story comes forward, and in essay writing, the idea comes forward. A writer could write a narrative or an essay about any given experience.




Examining the Structure of Essays


Titles/Important ideas

Evidence

The Genuine Van Gogh”

People who help others in little ways are heroes.

Austin went out of his way to help return a cat to its owners, and they thought he was a hero.

Lessons in Friendship”

Real friends stick with each other no matter what.

Tatiana’s friend Sayla decided she wanted “cooler” friends, so she ditched Tatiana.

The Power of Attitude”

Work is easier with the right attitude.

Melea found that yard work was easier once she changed her attitude.

Things are Not Always Black or White”

Stand in other people’s shoes to understand their perspective.

Judie got in an argument at school, and her teacher taught her that there are two sides to every story.




Examining the Structure of Essays


Titles/Important ideas

Evidence
























Comparing Narratives and Essays


Narrative

Essay

  • Organized in sequence.

  • Organized around an important idea.

  • Begins with character, setting, and problem.

  • Characters are developed across the whole text.

  • Important idea is developed across the whole text.

  • Ends with a resolution to the problem.

  • Ends by returning to the important idea.

  • Written so the reader can participate in the experience.

  • Written so the reader can think about the important idea.



Session 2

Concept

Writers generate ideas for writing personal essays.

Teaching Point

Writers brainstorm essay ideas from the important ideas in personal essays.




References

Materials

  • Lucy Calkins Units of Study for Teaching Writing, Grades 3-5, Book 3: Breathing Life Into Essays, Lucy Calkins

  • Writer’s notebooks

  • Anchor charts:

  • Examining the Structure of Essays

  • Comparing Narratives and Essays

  • Possible Essay Ideas




Note

  • Post on the daily schedule or verbally ask students to bring their writer’s notebook and a pencil to the meeting area.

Connection

  • Explain that students will be thinking about the important ideas from the essays they read yesterday to help them come up with their own essay ideas.

Demonstration/

Teaching

  • Review the Examining the Structure of Essays chart from yesterday’s session.

  • Explain that you and the students are going to start thinking about possible essay ideas and jotting them down today and for the next couple of days.

  • Demonstrate how to focus in on one important idea from the chart, think about what this idea means to you, and recall when an experience related to this idea occurred in your own life. Also suggest that students consider observations, facts, and events that have occurred outside of their lives as evidence that can support the important ideas in essays.

  • Begin a T-chart on the board with the title Possible Essay Ideas and the headings Important Ideas and Evidence from My Life or the World. Write the important idea in the box and a few words that tell about the experience, observation, fact, or event next to the first bullet on the chart. Then see if you can think of a second experience, observation, fact, or event related to the same important idea and record it next to the second bullet on the chart.

Active Engagement

  • Have students create a T-chart with the same title and headings on a clean page in their writer’s notebooks.

  • Give students time to think of two experiences, observations, facts, or events related to the same important idea and then share their ideas with a partner.

  • Have a few students share their ideas with the class. Explain that students should listen carefully to the ideas of other students because they often spark memories of other experiences, observations, facts, or events that can be used as evidence to support the important idea.

  • Have students jot down the important idea and the evidence on their T-charts.

  • Have students continue to do this same work using one more important idea from the chart.

Link

Writers, today you will continue this work independently. You will look at two other important ideas listed on the Examining the Structure of Essays chart, think about experiences, observations, facts, or events that can be used as evidence, and jot down these ideas in your writer’s notebooks. Talk about your ideas with a partner today. Your ideas might spark memories for others, and their ideas might spark memories for you.

Writing and

Conferring

  • Conduct individual conferences to support students’ efforts at thinking of their own ideas related to the important ideas.

Share


  • Convene students in the meeting area.

  • Bring closure to today’s workshop by having several students share essay ideas from their notebooks. Summarize the thinking the students used.

  • Have students recall and share one thing that they learned.




Possible Essay Ideas


Important ideas

Evidence from My Life or the World

(Personal Experiences,

Observations, Facts, Events)

  • People who help others in little ways are heroes.

  • Once my friend thought I was a hero because I helped her when her car ran out of gas.

  • Another time I thought my mom was a hero because she took care of me when I was really sick.

  • Real friends stick with each other no matter what.





  • Work is easier with the right attitude.





  • Stand in other people’s shoes to understand their perspective.







Session 3

Concept

Writers generate ideas for writing personal essays.

Teaching Point

Writers brainstorm essay ideas from the important ideas in narrative texts.




References

Materials

  • Lucy Calkins Units of Study for Teaching Writing, Grades 3-5, Book 3: Breathing Life Into Essays, Lucy Calkins

  • Writer’s notebooks

  • Anchor charts:

  • Comparing Narratives and Essays

  • Possible Essay Ideas

  • The Summer My Father Was Ten, Pat Brisson (accept responsibility for your actions)

  • Miss Rumphius, Barbara Cooney (leave things better than the way you found them)

  • Thunder Cake, Patricia Polacco (overcome your fears)

  • An Angel for Solomon Singer, Cynthia Rylant (accept things the way they are)

  • Owl Moon, Jane Yolen (have patience)




Note

  • Post on the daily schedule or verbally ask students to bring their writer’s notebook and a pencil to the meeting area.

Connection

  • Remind students that they have been studying personal essays to determine the important ideas and to generate their own possible essay ideas. Another source for collecting entries that can become essay ideas is narrative text.

Demonstration/

Teaching

  • Explain that narratives often have important ideas, too, and that essay writers sometimes focus on an important idea from a story to help them think of possible essay ideas.

  • Demonstrate how to focus in on an important idea from one story, think about what this idea means to you, and recall two experiences, observations, facts, or events that can be used as evidence to support this important idea.

  • Record the important idea and evidence on your Possible Essay Ideas T-chart.

Active Engagement

  • Explain to students that this important idea might remind them of experiences, observations, facts, or events, too. Give students time to think about what this idea means to them and share their ideas with a partner.

  • Have two or three students share their ideas with the class. Remind students to listen carefully because these ideas might spark other memories.

  • Have students open their writer’s notebooks and add the important idea and the related experiences, observations, facts, or events to their T-charts.

  • Have students continue to do this same work using one other narrative. Write the important idea from a familiar narrative on the Possible Essay Ideas chart and have students jot down this evidence in their writer’s notebooks.

Link

Writers, today you will continue this work independently. You will look at two other stories, think about the important ideas, and recall related experiences, observations, facts, or events of your own. Then you will jot down these important ideas and evidence in your writer’s notebooks. Talk about your ideas with a partner today. Your ideas might spark memories for others, and their ideas might spark memories for you.

Writing and

Conferring

  • Conduct individual conferences to support students’ efforts at thinking of their own examples related to the important ideas in stories.

Mid-Workshop Teaching Point

Writers, as you read other narrative texts, consider the important ideas in those stories, too. You may want to add these important ideas to your Possible Essay Ideas chart and see if you can think of related evidence to support the ideas.

Share


  • Convene students in the meeting area.

  • Bring closure to today’s workshop by having several students share essay ideas from their notebooks. Summarize the thinking the students used.

  • Have students recall and share one thing that they learned.
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