Unit Title: Personal Essay Duration: 3 weeks



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Personal Essay: Grade 3

Writing Unit 3




Unit Title: Personal Essay

Duration: 3 weeks

Concepts:

  1. Writers generate ideas for writing personal essays.

  2. Writers learn strategies for good personal essay writing.

  3. Writers learn strategies for revising their personal essays.

  4. Writers learn strategies for editing their personal essays.

  5. Writers publish and share their personal essays.

Materials to be provided by the teacher:

  1. On-Demand Personal Essay Writing Pre/Post-Assessment

  2. Writer’s notebooks

  3. Writing folders with notebook paper

  4. Special paper for final drafts




Professional Resources:

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

  2. A Curricular Plan for the Writing Workshop, Grade 3, 2011-2012, Lucy Calkins

  3. Notebook Know-How: Strategies for the Writer’s Notebook, Aimee Buckner

  4. Assessing Writers, Carl Anderson

Materials to be produced by the teacher:

  1. Anchor charts:

  • Examining the Structure of Essays

  • Comparing Narratives and Essays

  • Possible Essay Ideas

  • Thought Prompts

  • Boxes and Bullets

  • Parallel Structures

  • Ways to Start an Essay

  • Ways to End an Essay

  1. Enlarged copies of the following:

  • The Seed,” from Chicken Soup for the Kid’s Soul 2

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

  1. Individual copies of the following for each student:

  • (Optional) Personal-sized anchor charts for students who would benefit from having their own copies

  • Growing Up Takes Time” student essay

  • Fun with My Grandparents” student essay

  • Possible Essay Ideas chart

  • Don’t Stay Mad” student essay

  • Personal Essay Revision/Editing Checklist

  • Special paper for final drafts

  • Personal Essay Conferring Checklist

  • Personal Essay Assessment Rubric

  1. Two-column essay charts for small groups

Mentor Texts:

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

  2. Because of Winn-Dixie, Kate DiCamillo

  3. Fireflies, Julie Brinckloe

  4. Shortcut, Donald Crews

  5. Peter’s Chair, Ezra Jack Keats




Notes:

  1. In this unit, students are introduced to the personal essay, in which a big idea is supported by evidence in the form of stories from our lives. You will want to write an essay of your own before you begin this unit to use as a mentor text, since published personal essays are far less common than other forms of writing. Be sure to save examples of your students’ personal essays to use as examples in the years to come.

  2. Personal essays are based on big ideas that can be found in the world and in stories. If you have been determining and recording big ideas from the stories you have been reading all year, you will have a collection of big ideas to get you started. If not, you might return to some of your favorite short stories and picture books that you have read aloud and begin a list of big ideas that emerge from them. A list of mentor texts and some big ideas from those stories is included; however, you might prefer to use texts with which you are more familiar and ones already in your classroom library. Substitute any texts for the mentor texts suggested in this unit.

  3. Make sure to demonstrate how to determine big ideas in stories if you have not already done so. If you state the story line (character and his/her motivation, problem, solution) in just a couple of sentences, you can make the leap to the big idea in the story by thinking about how this story line applies to people in real life.

  4. Most of the stories in the Chicken Soup series are examples of personal narratives that connect with a big idea. A few of these stories are actually written in an essay format – starting and ending with a big idea and using a mini-story as evidence to support the big idea. Most of the Chicken Soup stories will be useful for collecting examples of big ideas.

  5. You might decide to have students work together as partners, and then independently, to read and determine the big ideas in short stories and picture books. Short stories can easily be reproduced for your students using only one or two pages each.

  6. Students will recall stories from their own lives that they can use as evidence to support these big ideas. Then they will choose one big idea that they care about the most and have relevant evidence from their own lives to support it.

  7. As always, immersion in a genre in the form of reading is essential before you begin teaching a unit on writing in the genre. Spend a few days having students read personal essays and compare them to personal narratives. Have students help you create a chart (provided in Session 1) to compare the content and structure of the personal narrative and the personal essay.

  8. Copy the student essays and some of the other charts in this unit and distribute them to students to use as references and to keep in their writing folders.

  9. Administer the on-demand assessment prior to beginning this unit and score the students’ writing using the assessment rubric at the end of this unit. At the conclusion of the unit, administer the same on-demand assessment and look for improvements in your students’ development as writers.

  10. Create permanent classroom anchor charts by adding new strategies as you go. If you choose to use a document camera to share the anchor charts from this unit, also create classroom anchor charts so students can refer to them later.

  11. Use the Conferring Checklist located at the end of this unit.

  12. Spend more than one day for a session if necessary.

  13. A special thank you goes out to all authors of professional resources cited in this unit for their insights and ideas.




Overview of Sessions – Teaching and Learning Points Aligned with the Common Core
Concept: Writers generate ideas for writing personal essays.

W.3.1, W.3.1a, W.3.1b


Session 1: Writers learn that evidence in the form of mini-stories is used to support big ideas in personal essays.

W.3.1, W.3.1a, W.3.1b


Session 2: Writers learn ways to support big ideas from personal essays using mini-stories.

W.3.1, W.3.1a


Session 3: Writers generate support for big ideas in the form of mini-stories and choose a big idea to develop into a personal essay.

W.3.1, W.3.1a, W.3.1b


Session 4: Writers learn how to write opinion statements for their own personal essays.

W.3.1a


Concept: Writers learn strategies for good personal essay writing.

W.3.1, W.3.1a, W.3.1b, W.3.1c, W.3.1d


Session 5: Writers learn how to organize their ideas in a personal essay using boxes and bullets.

W.3.1a
Session 6: Writers learn how to use their opinion statements to create essay introductions.

W.3.1a
Session 7 and 8: Writers learn how to include angled mini-stories as support for their point of view.

W.3.1a, W.3.1b


Session 9: Writers learn how to create essay conclusions that link back to their point of view.

W.3.1c, W.3.1d



Concept: Writers learn strategies for revising their personal essays.

W.3.5
Session 10: Writers learn how to revise their personal essays for meaning and clarity.

W.3.5
Session 11: Writers learn how to use revision/editing checklists to edit their writing.

W.3.5


Concept: Writers publish and share their personal essays.

W.3.4
Session 12 and 13: A writing community celebrates.

W.3.4

On-Demand Personal Essay Writing Pre/Post-Assessment
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:


Many people think that if they get in a fight with their friends, it is okay to stay angry with them.”
Tell students:

Read the statement, “Many people think that if they get in a fight with their friends, it is okay to stay angry with them” 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 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. Pay close attention to what your writers can already do and almost do. This information will help you focus on goals for your students. Use the same rubric to score their published essays at the end of this unit to show what they have learned.


Post-Assessment Instructions (optional):

At the conclusion of this unit, administer the same on-demand assessment and look for improvements in your students’ development as writers.




Session 1

Concept

Writers generate ideas for writing personal essays.

Teaching Point

Writers learn that evidence in the form of mini-stories is used to support big 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

  • A Curricular Plan for the Writing Workshop, Grade 3, 2011-2012, 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.




  • Writing folders

  • Anchor charts:

  • Examining the Structure of Essays

  • Comparing Narratives and Essays

  • Enlarged copies of the following class-sized essays:

  • The Seed,” from Chicken Soup for the Kid’s Soul 2

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

  • Copies of the following student essays for each group:

  • Growing Up Takes Time”

  • Fun with My Grandparents”

  • Two-column essay charts for each group




Note

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

Connection

Writers, today we will begin a new unit of study. We have already written about our lives in personal narratives. Now we will write about our lives in a new way. We are going to learn how to write personal essays. We will begin by looking at personal essays to learn how evidence in the form of mini-stories is used to support big ideas.

Demonstration/

Teaching

  • Explain that essays are always organized around a big idea. Authors present their opinion (or point of view) related to a big idea, and then they support this opinion with evidence.

  • Explain that today students will study the big ideas and evidence in essays. They will learn more about forming an opinion, or taking a point of view, in a few days.

  • Explain that there are several different kinds of essays:

  • Literary essays which are used to support big ideas in literature with evidence from the same literature,

  • Persuasive essays which are used to convince others to do something or think a certain way, a big idea, with evidence from real life, and

  • Personal essays which are used to support big ideas in the world with evidence from our lives.

  • Share the personal essay, “The Seed,” and examine the introduction to identify the big idea (Reach to do the impossible). Explain how the body of the essay includes support for this big idea in the form of a mini-story. The essay ends with a return to the big idea.

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

Active Engagement

  • Read aloud the enlarged copy of the essay, “The Genuine Van Gogh.”

  • Have students study the introduction to locate the big idea and notice how the essay ends with a return to the same big idea.

  • Have students share their ideas with their partners.

  • Record the big idea and evidence on the Examining the Structure of Essays chart. Summarize the process with the students.

Link

Writers, whenever we begin work in a new genre, we will want to study mentor texts to help us understand its structure and content. Today you will be working in groups to explore two other personal essays. You will be reading them to determine the big ideas and the evidence that supports the big ideas. You will record this information on two-column essay charts.

Writing and

Conferring

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

Mid-Workshop Teaching Point

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

Teaching 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. You will want to refer to this chart throughout the unit, as students will not fully understand each point until they actually create their own essays.

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

  • 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.

Note

  • Students should be able to identify texts that are read aloud as narrative or essay and explain why as they learn more about personal essays throughout this unit.





Examining the Structure of Essays


Titles/Big Ideas

Evidence

The Seed”

Reach to do the impossible.

Teresa wanted to grow an orange tree in New York, and she made it happen.

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.

Growing Up Takes Time”

Take your time growing up.

A girl remembers a time that she wasn’t as grown up as she thought was.

Fun with My Grandparents”

Give people a chance.

A boy doesn’t think his grandparents are much fun until they take him to a haunted house.




Examining the Structure of Essays


Titles/Big Ideas

Evidence
























Comparing Narratives and Essays


Narrative

Essay

  • Organized in sequence.

  • Organized around a big idea.

  • Begins with character, setting, and problem.

  • Begins with a big idea and an opinion, or point of view.

  • Characters are developed across the whole text.

  • Big idea is developed across the whole text.

  • Ends with a resolution to the problem.

  • Ends by returning to the big idea.

  • Written so the reader can participate in the experience.

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

Growing Up Takes Time
Many kids think that “growing up” is easy. They want to grow up fast and be big kids because then they can do more things. Most of the time, growing up can feel really good, but it is not as easy as it looks. I think that growing up is often hard, and it takes a lot of work to get there.

One time, I really wanted to go on the big roller coaster at the amusement park. When I got there, I found out that I was just barely tall enough to ride it. I was so excited! I couldn’t wait to ride down the steep hill. I climbed in and prepared myself for the fast ride. But it went so fast that I thought I was going to fall out. I screamed and screamed! I just knew that I was going to throw up. I wanted the ride to be over, but it felt like there was always another hill or curve. When the ride slowed down, my stomach felt sick. I never wanted to go on that ride again! I didn’t feel like such a big kid that day.

I realize that it takes time to grow up, and it isn’t always easy. Kids shouldn’t try to hurry it along. Growing up can be great, but it isn’t as easy as it looks. It takes time, and there are bumps along the way. But I still can’t wait until I get there.


Fun with My Grandparents
I used to think that the first idea you had about someone was always right. I thought it wouldn’t be any fun to spend time with my grandparents because they were so old. I was sure that they were too old to do things that were fun for kids. But now I realize that you have to give people a chance.

One reason why I changed my mind is that in October my grandparents took me to a haunted house. I really wanted to go, but my parents didn’t have time to take me. I couldn’t believe it when my grandparents said they would take me. It was so dark, and there were creepy monsters and skeletons and witches everywhere. We heard spooky sounds like creaks and screams, too. I kept telling myself that it wasn’t real. Some things jumped out from nowhere, and I screamed right out loud! It was scary, but I loved every minute of it! I was so happy that my grandparents took me to the haunted house. My grandparents loved it, too! This shows that you don’t really know someone until you give them a chance.

Now I know that my first thought about people isn’t always right. I like to be with my grandparents, and it is fun to do things together. They think of great places to go and things to do. I realize that you have to give people a chance.


The Seed


Big Idea

Evidence






The Genuine Van Gogh


Big Idea

Evidence





Growing Up Takes Time


Big Idea

Evidence






Fun with My Grandparents


Big Idea

Evidence





Session 2

Concept

Writers generate ideas for writing personal essays.

Teaching Point

Writers learn ways to support big ideas from personal essays using mini-stories.




References

Materials

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

  • A Curricular Plan for the Writing Workshop, Grade 3, 2011-2012, Lucy Calkins




  • Writing folders

  • Anchor charts:

  • Examining the Structure of Essays

  • Comparing Narratives and Essays

  • Possible Essay Ideas

  • Copies of three-page Possible Essay Ideas chart for each student.




Notes

  • Prepare packets for each student that include the Possible Essay Ideas pages that follow this session. You might decide to include only pages 1 and 2 or only pages 1 and 3 - depending on the stories you are using as mentor texts for big ideas. You or the students can use the blank chart to record other big ideas.

  • Post on the daily schedule or verbally ask students to bring a pencil to the meeting area.

Connection

Writers, yesterday we learned that personal essays are based on big ideas and have evidence in the form of mini-stories to support them. Today we will be thinking about the big ideas from the essays we read yesterday to help us come up with stories from our own lives to support these big 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 big 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.

  • Begin a T-chart on the board with the title Possible Essay Ideas and the headings Big Ideas and Evidence from My Life. Write the big idea in the box and a few words that tell about the experience next to the first bullet on the chart. Explain that this experience is evidence that supports the big idea. Then see if you can think of a second experience related to the same big idea and record it next to the second bullet on the chart.

  • Explain that, although the personal essays from session 1 had only one mini-story as evidence to support the big idea, students will be supporting their big ideas using two mini-stories.

Active Engagement

  • Give students time to think of an experience from their own lives related to the same big idea, and then turn and share their ideas with a partner.

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

  • Distribute the Possible Essay Ideas packets for each student. Students will complete only the first page in today’s .

  • Have students record the experience, or evidence, next to the big idea.

Link

Writers, today you will continue this work independently. You will look at three other big ideas listed on the Examining the Structure of Essays chart, think about your own experiences related to the big ideas, and jot down these experiences, or evidence, next to each big idea. These big ideas and evidence might turn into your own essay ideas. Talk about your essay ideas with your partner today. Your ideas might spark memories for others, and their ideas might spark memories for you.

(You might decide to guide students to consider experiences, or evidence, for each big idea as a whole class – discussing each big idea and having students share examples of related experiences. This will support students who are having trouble coming up with ideas on their own. )



Writing and

Conferring

  • Conduct individual conferences to support students’ efforts at thinking of related experiences they can use as evidence to support each big idea.

Teaching Share

  • Bring closure to today’s workshop by having two or three students share their essay ideas.




Possible Essay Ideas


Big ideas

Evidence from My Life

  • Reach to do the impossible.

(The Seed)

  • I never thought I could learn how to play golf, but I stuck with it and now I am pretty good.

  • My brother told me that I would never be able to shoot a basket, but I did.

  • People who help others in little ways are heroes.

(The Genuine Van Gogh)






  • Take your time growing up.

(Growing Up Takes Time)






  • Give people a chance.

(Fun with My Grandparents)









Possible Essay Ideas


Big ideas

Evidence from My Life

Reach to do the impossible.

(The Seed)










People who help others in little ways are heroes.

(The Genuine Van Gogh)








Take your time growing up.

(Growing Up Takes Time)










Give people a chance.

(Fun with My Grandparents)












Possible Essay Ideas


Big ideas

Evidence from My Life

Reach out to others.

(Because of



Winn-Dixie)










Respect nature.

(Fireflies)









Do the right thing.

(Shortcut)










Accept change.

(Peter’s Chair)








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