English II teachers are constantly searching for strategies to improve students' analytical responses to literature. This lesson is designed for all types of learners, offering various activities for all learning styles. Individual, small group, and whole class activities on essay writing culminate with the student writing his or her own formal response to literature.
This generic writing activity may be used with any literary unit and at any point in your students' development of the writing process.
A lesson plan for grades 9–10 English Language Arts
This mini-unit is designed to offer students of writing who have reached a plateau an avenue through which they may again see improvements. By analyzing average and high-scoring student essay responses published by the state department (average papers are given to low scoring writers; high papers are given to average writers), students are given reasonable goals to achieve. Students are offered opportunities for gradual improvement.
Students improve oral communication skills through small group activities whereby they discuss specific aspects of the essay sample, then write a skeleton essay with their group on the literary work in study.
After the step-by-step process of analyzing student essays, students in the class will demonstrate an improved understanding of the writing process by writing a five-paragraph analytical response to the current text in study.
The diversity of teacher expectations allows this unit to be taught at any point of the writing instruction, depending on the type of students in the class. I feel the mini-unit works best when students have reached a plateau in their writing, when they feel they have exhausted all possibilities for improvement yet still have not reached the desired level. This mini-unit should offer students an avenue for improvement; therefore, they should be very familiar with the writing process when this unit is offered.
This instruction should culminate a literary unit in order that students demonstrate mastery of the unit, coupled with improved writing ability.
Small Group Effort
Students are given individual copies of a new essay topic appropriate to the unit of literature just studied. (In this case, A Doll’s House) Students are allowed to refer to the Helpful Hints sheet only. They are given the ninety-minute block of time to write a five-paragraph essay. They must spend twenty to thirty minutes (minimum) planning their essay, thirty to forty-five minutes writing their drafts, and fifteen to thirty minutes revising and editing their drafts. I do not accept any papers until seventy minutes of class has lapsed, nor do I allow them to work on anything else during the first seventy minutes of class.
Returning Students’ Essays
Teacher should select one strong paper and one weaker paper to use for class demonstration. Prior to returning students’ papers, teacher should type the two selected essays. Teacher should use the TV monitor and computer to share these with the class. Teacher may ask one student to sit at computer to type any changes that are discussed and agreed upon. This activity is particularly beneficial to students. Students value learning from their peers. Also, this can be a tremendous confidence builder for students, provided the teacher and students respect the essayist’s anonymity. Suggested time: 45 minutes.
While the teacher is able to assess at the various stages whether or not the class has met the objectives of the individual and small group activities, the teacher is able to make a final assessment by scoring each individual’s essay using the holistic scoring rubric provided by the state department. The teacher then can make further assessments by comparing this paper with previous ones to determine in what areas the student has improved. Score comparison will also indicate growth.
Teacher should have many state-released, teacher-made, and textbook essay prompts from which to pull for this activity.
Teacher should also have many sample essays released from the state department (and student samples from this and previous years). These are a great reference for students to “see” the writing process. Students especially see validity in papers that have been scored by the state’s assessors.
I designed this mini-unit as a “last ditch” effort to improve my students’ writing (only three-four weeks prior to the writing test). I was quite pleased to see an improvement. These fundamental strategies have offered students who struggled with writing a means by which to achieve success at their own levels, something that presents magnanimous challenges in heterogeneously grouped classes.
I used this lesson at the end of the study of A Doll’s House, but it can be adapted to any unit in study by selecting essay prompts appropriate for the literary work.