Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Sophomore Research Essay

This paper is taught after the argumentation unit and asks students to consider the rhetorical triangle, utilize artful appeals to authority, integrate rhetorical devices and avoid fallacious reasoning (all taught in the previous unit) as they craft their own argument.  Rather than teach paragraph by paragraph, I teach more skill by skill for this essay - this is based on past performance with writing skills and a need to focus in on smooth integration of evidence.  We start by carefully reviewing the prompt, rubric and yes-test.  I encourage the students to spend an entire day researching and carefully.selecting a topic.  I allow only two students in each class to have the same topic.  Here is the prompt (as determined by the 10th grade team at my school):

After students have selected topics, we start with research.  As part of the argumentation unit, students assessed the sources used by speakers for validity, reliability and bias using the CRAAP test.  Now it is their turn to avoid the mistakes the speakers they examined made and find reliable sources for their writing.  I have them use a CRAAP rubric in order to determine whether a source is worthy of inclusion or not.  Here is the version of the rubric that we use in class:

We have worked with thesis statements half a dozen times by this point in the year, but because they are so essential to the quality of an essay, we review them again and strategies/sentence structures for writing them.  I have students work in pairs to define what the term thesis statement means, to pull out and find synonyms for buzz words, to write three versions of a thesis and then to peer edit their statements.  They use all of this work in order to craft a final thesis statement for their essay.

Students pair up again as they work on determining a basic outline for the essay.  They brainstorm, determine and craft sub-topics with a partner.  Next, they use Noodletools to cite the sources they are planning to use, write an outline and create notecards with information they are planning to integrate into their essay.

On the next day, students are asked to carefully consider and determine the best format for integration of information in their essay.  We review what summary is and when it is most effective, what paraphrasing is and when it is most effective and what a direct quote is and when this format is most effective.  Students are asked to go through the evidence they have selected for inclusion and determine the best format for each piece.  They are encouraged to mix up the style of evidence they include and also to fill in any holes in their research.

On the next day, we review how to introduce evidence smoothly in a research paper with a focus on references to sources that are both relevant and specific.  Students are asked to write introductions for each piece of evidence that they are planning to incorporate into their essay.  This is supplemented with convention instruction surrounding the integration of quotes.

Because citations can be tricky for students, but are essential for avoiding issues of plagarism, we spend a day reviewing how to cite evidence according to MLA format rules.  We review basic MLA format for citations and students are given time to correctly cite all of the evidence they are planning to integrate into their essay.

The next day of direct instruction focuses on how to explain evidence - with a heavy focus on avoiding summary and analyzing instead as well as utilization of effective rhetoric.

We review, as a class, specifics for writing a concession and rebuttal and then the kids are ready to edit/revise and publish.

Finally students add transitions, topic sentences, and the pieces of the introduction and conclusion that are needed before beginning to peer edit and revise their essay prior to publishing.

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