The Weekly Text, November 13, 2015

For the second year, as I have mentioned elsewhere on this blog, I have struggled to assemble a structured and scaffolded unit on writing the five-paragraph essay for the eight-week special institute class required of freshmen in my school. The premise of the exercise–that all there is to be learned about composing five-paragraph essays–and therefore, I guess, all essays–can be learned in eight class meetings has always struck me as…well, to put it as charitably as possible, problematic. This approach is especially problematic for the struggling learners I serve.

So, I’ve worked at creating a unit that leads students who struggle with writing and reading, and don’t really understand the elements of grammatically complete sentence, to an understanding of how to write expository prose. My own sense remains that for the students I work with, this material would be best presented seriatim in daily classroom sessions rather than once a week, and that it should be presented one step at a time over two eight-lesson units rather than one. The five-paragraph essay is not the only form of expository writing students will need to learn, so why not make that form part of a broader and deeper strategy on teaching writing?

When I went through the first unit just now, I found that I hadn’t made the kind of progress on it that I’d hoped. In any case, I think these units will undergo revision each time I use them to meet the need the students I work with. On that note, here is a lesson on the elements of a declarative sentence, the first from my unit on writing the five-paragraph essay.

N.B., please, that in several of the sentence setups in exercises one through eight have a series of asterisks where the subject should be. This is so you may, if you choose, insert names of your students for use as subjects, and the same is true of the parsing sentences do-now work that opens the lesson. Please see the About Weekly Texts page for the rationale behind this.

As always, I’d be grateful to hear from you if you find this useful, or if you adapted it in any way, and in either case, how.

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