Focus Lesson Topic Collecting Ideas As Essayists Day 3: Starting With a subject That Matters

Download 64.5 Kb.
Size64.5 Kb.
Focus Lesson Planning Sheet

Focus Lesson Topic

Collecting Ideas As Essayists Day 3:

Starting With A Subject That Matters

(adapted from Calkins and Gillette, 2006)


An example of an essay (see example below)

Writer’s Notebooks

Possible topic for class essay (for demonstration purposes)

Anchor Chart (see below) started after previous lesson with today’s lesson added on

Chart paper


We have been talking about how essayists collect ideas to write about. We discussed how essayists, like other writers, notice the small events of their lives and then reflect on them. The small stuff of their lives led them to the big thoughts they talked about in their essays. We talked about how sometimes essayists think of a big idea and then fill in details about that big idea as they write their essays. Today we will talk about another way essayists might collect ideas to write about.

Explicit Instruction
Anchor chart:

Ideas for generating an essay

-Start with the small stuff you notice in your life. Let the small stuff lead you to big ideas.

-Start with a big idea or an issue you care about and let it lead you to details.

-Start with a subject (person, place or thing) that matters to you.

You know that we all have certain people, places and things that are important to us. We used some of these subjects to think of personal narrative stories. But sometimes subjects that matter to us can lead us to think about some big ideas about those subjects. A wonderful writer and teacher of writing named Lucy Calkins used this strategy in one of her essays. Her dad was very important to her and she loved to tell stories about him. Those stories were personal narratives about small moments with her dad. But she also got inspiration to write an essay about her dad by thinking about ideas about her dad. If she were making a list she might write “My Dad” and then list some ideas about him. Write “My Dad” at the top of a chart paper and then list the following below that. For example she might write “one of my most important teachers” thinking about how her dad taught her so much about life. She might write “always been an interesting character” thinking about how her dad never seemed just like everyone else but was always his own person. She might write “helped me care about writing” thinking about how her dad encouraged her in her writing even when no one else thought it was very good. Any of these ideas might lead her to an essay about her dad, but here is the one she wrote. Read essay below.

Guided Practice

Let’s try this together. One subject that matters to us as a class is _________ (perhaps use the principal, one of the specialists, or some other person to generate ideas). We could list some ideas that come to mind when we think of him/her. We aren’t remembering small moments about that person, but listing big ideas about that person. For example, when I think of ________, I think __________ (For example, if you are using the principal you could say how he/she is so friendly and greets every student getting off the bus in the morning). Turn and talk about some ideas that _______ makes you think about.

Elicit some responses and list them on chart.

Any of these big ideas inspired by _______could become an essay.

Send Off [for Independent Practice]

Today you are going to look through your WNBs. Look for entries about subjects that matter to you. You may have already written some small moment, personal narrative stories about these subjects. But this time you will list some big ideas that subject makes you think about.

Group Share

Students could share some the subjects that matter to them that led them big ideas they thought about that topic.

My dad has always been a colorful character. On Christmas Day, he went to move a log in the fireplace and gouged his head on one of the nails from which the Christmas stockings hung. To stop the ferocious bleeding, he held a bag of frozen peas on the top of his bald head. Guests arrived for our Christmas party and he greeted them with the peas draped over his forehead. The guests weren’t surprised to see Dad’s odd ice-pack because he’s always done what he pleases without much concern for fitting into social norms. It isn’t important to him to dress ”right.” He wears his red plaid hunting cap everywhere. When I was a teenager and he wore that hunting cap to my school events, I was embarrassed by him. But now I’m proud of his values and hope my life demonstrates similar values.

-Lucy Calkins

Download 64.5 Kb.

Share with your friends:

The database is protected by copyright © 2020
send message

    Main page