Tag Archives: 6+1 Writing Traits

Week 36 – A Pop Essay to Make You Foam at the Mouth

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As the year is winding down, I’ve been wanting to assess my students on the writing process when left totally up to them.  I also wanted to know what they took from the movie “A Knight’s Tale” that we watched in class as part of our unit on the middle ages.  (We watched a safer, denuded, and cleaned up “airplane” version.)   So when they came back from recess, I said, “Okay, Pop Essay!  Get out binder paper and your notes.”

POP ESSAY!

Using your notes and the True/False list you made while viewing the A Knight’s Tale, outline and write a first draft of an expository essay.  You have one class period only.

 Here is your prompt:  How historically accurate is the movie “A Knight’s Tale”?  Describe the most important moments that are accurate and explain why, and then describe the most interesting  moments that are inaccurate and explain why.  What conclusions can you draw about our popular notion of the middle ages based on the film?

Do your outline here.

Go!

The students never batted an eye.  They all got out paper and their notes, and we looked at the prompt.

We took a minute to “deconstruct” the prompt.  First I asked them where we would find our thesis statement.  We underlined the first question.  I explained that they would need to turn it into a statement, but clearly I need to go over it again because one student used the question as it was written.

Then we numbered the jobs that the prompt was asking to be answered.   We put a 1 at “describe” and drew an arrow to what we were to describe and circled it: the important moments.  Then we put a 1a at the word “why” to remind us to give examples and reasons.  Then we put a 2 at the second “describe” drew a circle around the words “interesting moments” and drew a squiggly line under the word “interesting” to make it clear that “important” and “interesting” are two different concepts.  Then we put a 2a at the word, “why”.

Then we looked at the last sentence, and students were relieved to see the word “conclusions”. They accurately connected the word to a conclusion paragraph.  You don’t need to do it that way, but it does make a nice way to wrap up your thoughts.

Then I introduced the idea of the magic number 3.  They need two sets of moments.  Emphasis on the plural.  I told them that it is always useful to pick three ideas to support their thesis.  This meant that with a topic sentence they would be looking at about seven sentences for their body paragraphs.  Each moment must be supported.  The three moments plus three examples plus one topic sentence equals about seven sentences.  That gave them an idea of the length of the paper.

I wanted them to give me strong outlines, and so I told them that they needed to make the outline specific enough that if they didn’t finish the paper, I could still give them credit based on what they were planning to say as shown in their outline.  One the other hand, I warned them that they didn’t want to make the outline so specific that they didn’t have time to write it.  Only one didn’t get to write.  But his outline is amazing.  (We’ll work on it.)  Some finished early.  I told them that in this case, they need to check that they were on topic, then do as much revision as possible before the essays are picked up.  They needed to think about legibility, grammar and mechanics, idea and content, organization, word choice, and voice.

It takes time to master timed writing. They should not beat themselves up because they didn’t finish, but to consider why they hadn’t.

Instead of posting several essays, I thought I could get more student’s work up if I cherry picked some paragraphs and moments that I found to be most interesting.

Here are some openings:

The movie “A Knight’s Tale” focuses on medieval times.  But is the movie accurate to history?  In this paper:  What is accurate?  What is inaccurate? and why?

How accurate is the movie “A Knight’s Tale”? This movie is about a squire, the helper of a knight, named William, and how he changed his stars.  Which means that he went from squire to knight.

Is “A Knight’s Tale” historically inaccurate? Or is it both?  Let us find out.

And some 1st body paragraphs:

This will be the accurate section of my paper.  Training daily is a huge part of a knight’s  life.  That is how they have lots of power to hold these huge swords (not always big swords, but heavy).  Courtly love is love in the nobility.  One of the rules is when you speak to your lover, you will foam at the mouth.  The Black Prince is a real character.  His real name is Prince Edward.  He is famous for his victories.  He does help other kings and, yes, he does tournaments.  There is still many more. 

First of all, this movie had a lot of accuracies, some unexpected.  There was, in fact, daily training for all knights.  William wasn’t doing a lot of extra training. All the rules of jousting and the stuff that happened (including getting hurt) did happen.  This is important because it was actually unwarped despite how silly it sometimes seemed.  William also followed the rules of courtly love.  That is very important because to some people could see that it would be crazy how one would follow and constantly think about another.

Now I will describe a few accurate parts.  Most of the dances were accurate, but not all of them were.  This was important because William got closer to the girl he liked.  Only widows having men’s job (blacksmithing) was accurate.  William needed a good blacksmith.  People were hanged.  Roland uses this to show William what could happen to him.

First, I will discuss the accuracies of this movie. First on accuracies is Knights.  Knights had to have people pay them taxes so they can go to a tournament.  Also, in Europe, if you are not of noble birth, you cannot be a knight.  Next is Ulric von Lichtenstein.  Ulric was an actual character from history who was a knight.  Next is apprentices.  Most children were apprenticed around the age of 7.

And some 2nd body paragraphs (I didn’t give the whole paragraphs for some of these because there was a lot of repetition.)

This next paragraph is about how inaccurate it is.  They filled the lances with pasta.  The makers did that so they could have an effect.  The blacksmith put a Nike symbol on the armor.  First, they didn’t have Nike, and second the blacksmiths did not put a symbol on armor (as far as we know).  They did not know what people looked like back then.  For example, the Black Prince, we don’t know what he looks like.

Now I will explain three false moments.  One of them is that David Bowie did not exist then.  He was born very recently.  The outfits for women were very inaccurate. They looked like “Star Wars” clothes!  The lances broke.  They wouldn’t have been able to afford so many.

Next,  the inaccurate moments.  They had no trial for criminals.  When William got arrested, he went straight to public humiliation.  They also filled the lances with linguini.  I would not expect to see that in the middle ages, but it did add pop to the jousting.  Finally, the women used hair dye.  We know that women would dress their hair elaborately, but did not color their hair. 

Finally, roses were pink and white, not deep red.

They did not eat turkey legs.

First, in the middle ages, there was no hair dye and women would have worn their hair up and covered.  I know this because we have watched many middle ages documentaries and they said exactly that.

And for some conclusions:

Not thinking historically, this movie was funny and exciting.  If we had not learned about the middle ages, everyone in the class would think that the middle ages wasn’t all that bad.  They also would think most knights were mostly too snobby and proud to congratulate anyone else.  If everyone had thought these things, they would be totally wrong.

I learned that some movies are accurate and some aren’t.  Example, this one was more accurate.  I learned and saw some of the rules of courtly love. Like when the two lovers, William and Jocelyn, are talking and William is tripping over his words and you can hear him.

I am very pleased with the results.  The students’ voices come out loud and clear while strongly reflecting what we learned in class.  They also had little problem transferring the writing process to a quick essay test.  So, yay, yay, and yay.

So, here’s to Heath Ledger (god rest his soul), people having fun with History, and whoever created the essay.  Add them all up, and you get statements like “when you speak to your lover, you foam at the mouth.”

Cheers!

Week 33 – Student C’s Offering

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Here is another student’s response to the compare and contrast prompt.

This student worked extremely hard on this paper. His willingness to do revision after revision, to listen to those who could help him, and the choices he ultimately made to improve his paper make me so very proud of him. Notice the green underlining on the outline. He never lost patience when I asked him to go back and answer reader questions. Notice the back of the third draft. He was still working on hooks and introductory thoughts. This child knows how to work. And he did so diligently, coming up with a product he can be proud of. I know I’m proud of him.

The contrast brainstorm:
maniac artemis contrast

The contrast brainstorm:
maniac artemis contrast:

The outline:
maniac artemis outline 1
maniac artemis outline 2
maniac artemis outline 3
maniac artemis outline 4

The first draft:
maniac artemis 1st 1

The second draft:
maniac artemis 2nd 1
maniac artemis 2nd 2

The third draft:
maniac artemis 3rd 1
maniac artemis 3rd 2
maniac artemis 3rd 3

PSR: For some reason we can’t find it.

The fourth draft:
maniac artemis 4th 1
maniac artemis 4th 2

And the Graded Rubric:
maniac artemis final rubric

Week 32 – Student B’s Offering

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I’ve uploaded more student papers.  This student wrote his compare and contrast paper on Sherlock Holmes and Scrooge.  It has the same rubric as before.

Let’s see what he’s done.

sherscrooge compare

And the contrast brainstorm:
sherscrooge contrast

Then the plot development chart. For some reason we are missing one of the plots.
sherscrooge plot chart

Then the outline. Notice that he has chosen to outline conclusion directly after introduction.
sherscrooge outline 1
sherscrooge outline 2
sherscrooge outline 3

Then the first draft:
sherscrooge 1st 1
sherscrooge 1st 2
sherscrooge 1st 3

Then the second draft:
sherscrooge 2nd 1
sherscrooge 2nd 2
And for some reason we are missing the final page…

Then the third draft:
sherscrooge 3rd 1
sherscrooge 3rd 2
sherscrooge 3rd 3

Then the Personal Skills Record:
sherscrooge PSR 1
sherscrooge PSR 2

Then the final draft:
sherscrooge 4th 1
sherscrooge 4th 2
sherscrooge 4th 3

And finally, the Rubric with the final grade:
sherscrooge final rubric

And there it is! A job well done. A paper I think most high school students would be proud of.

Week 31 – Student A’s Response: Final Draft!

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You heard it, the culmination of over a month’s worth of work on the Humanities Paper: the hallowed Final Draft.  Let angels sing.

And here is it: You will see all the work shown in previous posts add up in this paper. Now, I want to say that this is a 5th/6th classroom. This student is a sixth grader, aged 11 or 12 for non-Americans.  As she grows and changes, and as she re-reads these books over time, she will gain more insight and understanding because that’s how life works. Do I agree with everything she said? No. Do I need to? No. What I want is for her to present her ideas and justify them, and that she does. Am I completely and totally proud of her and her work? You betcha!

A note. Any corrections students make when they proof their paper before they turn it in do not come off of their grade. You will see that Student A made a few slight changes right before handing it in.

Final 1 tree
Final 2 tree
Final 3 tree

And the final graded rubric is below. Notice that I do not write on a final draft. There is no need. Every document that she turned in is a working document, and should show signs of revision.  All information is conveyed on the rubric below.  Students are invited to take the graded rubrics home for “braggin’ rights,” but the stack of pages making up the final paper, goes into the student’s portfolio.  And on to next months paper…

Rubric tree

Week 31 – Student A’s Response: 2nd Draft

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Second Draft – Having made the changes to her draft, she gave her paper to another student to have it scored for her.  You can see the remarks he made on her paper.  Because they were specifically looking at the trait of Organization, you will notice that he marked transitions as he saw them.  He also used the language of the rubric to give her feedback.  He first gave her a three out of five based on the rubric, but upon reflection, upgraded it to a 4, a fair score.  Notice that he does not comment on grammar and mechanics, that will be the focus of the next draft.  She will take his recommendations into account and put them in play when revising for her third draft.

2nd draft tree 1

2nd draft tree 2
2nd draft tree 3

Week 29 – Writing Rubric Dissection

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So, I’m going to dissect one of the easiest rubrics I use to guide beginning students through the writing process.  Imagine that everything in the bordered cells is on one sheet of paper (more or less as shown in “Week 29 – Why a Rubric?“). All the rest is comment.

Rubric for Humanities 1 Paper
Notice that there is no real prompt yet.  Learning how to read a prompt will be another lesson.
Part 1 – Independent Grades
Students can see the parts of the writing process which they will be responsible for.  Many students sit down and write a paper the night before it is due; they brag about it.  Of course they can, but nine times out of ten the paper they will write would have been improved by having put their ideas through the writing process, even if it means just an editing.  They also get a sense of the kind of work that makes a strong paper.
Brainstorm and Plot Map 10 Due:
10 points total for this work. This is not about quality. Either they did it or they didn’t. This always means when they need to have it in class.
Brainstorms and Plot Maps are really two separate things.  The brainstorming happens as a series of questions that students answer as a way to think more deeply about the elements of literature.  The plot map is a series of steps that ask the student to put the events of the novel in order.  This may look like outlining, but it isn’t.
Outline 5 Due:
Students are taught a basic outlining format.  They pick up information straight off of their brainstorm and plot map and put it into an outline form.  They are required to skip lines between ideas and not to write in complete sentences.
Rough Draft 10 Due:
The due date is super important here.  Our next task simply cannot be done if students do not come to class prepared.  Students who do not have it finished write their papers while everyone else is doing the Clang Session.
Students start drafting.  They are asked to write paragraphs based on their outlines.  I ask them not to worry about grammar or spelling or anything (at all) that keeps their hands from moving. They are exhorted to shut down anything that keeps them from turning the phrases on their outlines into sentences and paragraphs on their papers.  If they are working on a computer, I ask them to shut off the grammar and spell check totally.  I want to see their eyes moving from the outline to the paper, from the outline to the paper until it is written.  Damn the torpedos!  Full speed ahead!
Clang Session 5 Due:
Students get credit for reading another writer’s paper back to them.  They are not allowed to make any comments whatsoever unless they are specifically asked for help by the writer.
The clang session is the place where students learn that their first draft is not good enough.  What we write and what we think we write are often two separate things.  The process is simple: a student trades papers with another writer and has their own paper read back to them.  As they listen, they stop the reader to make changes on their own paper.  They will learn to change out words, fix sentences, and move ideas around to make their writing clearer by ear.
Second Draft 10 Due:
Students make the corrections and changes based on what they learned in the clang session.  We’ve now hit “crafting”.  They also know that this 2nd draft will be given a score for quality for one of the 6+1 Writing Traits.  They have anchored the trait by the time they get to this step, but until they have to give a classmate’s paper a score, they really don’t “get it”.
Peer Edit 5 Due:
This is the point where they score a classmate’s paper.
Third Draft 10 Due:
Students make changes (I won’t call them corrections) based on the recommendations of their peer(s).  They also know that they will be turning this paper into me for a final grammar and mechanics edit.  As such, they want to make any corrections to ensure that their paper is as grammatically watertight as possible.  Officially, this is the first time I’ve seen their work, although I’ve been coaching them from the sidelines since the beginning.
Personal Skills Record 10 Due:
This gets picked up with the final draft.
Upon getting their paper back, students learn the grammar rules they broke so that they can not make them again.
Total: __ / 65 pts.
Students turn all of the above in when they turn in the final draft.  None of the grades go in the book until I see all of the above.   I am looking evidence of how the thinking of the student changed throughout the process of writing the paper.  Did they hear problems in their paper when they heard it read back to them?  Did they take into account the score they were given and make appropriate changes?  Did they correct all of the grammar and mechanics mistakes?  Is their final paper the result of a writing process?
Part 2 – Final Draft Due:
This will be the result of all of the above labor.  It also tells the student what they will be writing about.  Students will refer back to it as they write.
Paragraph One – Introductory Paragraph
Introduce the paper  (Touch on setting, characters, and plot) 1   2   3   4   5
Here we see points given for the quality of the work.  If the student receives a 1, 2, or 3 which is underlined, then they will have a writing conference with me.  Students get a choice to either fix the paragraph right then or wait and put it in effect in the next paper.
Author 5
Title 5
Remember I’m working with young writers.  They honestly do not know that they need to name the author and the title of the book they read in the introduction.  In later papers, I add these points to the overall grade for the introductory paragraph.  They get five points just for remembering to say the author and the title.
Paragraph Two
Setting 1   2   3   4   5
Atmosphere (tone) 1   2   3   4   5
Paragraph Three
Main Character 1   2   3   4   5
For each of these above, I’m looking for the amount and quality of information in the paragraph. But I’m also looking to see what transferred from the brainstorm to the final draft.
Paragraph Four
Plot Development 1   2   3   4   5
Similar to the character and setting paragraphs, I’m looking at their plot development chart to see how they rearrange the information to make it read as a summary through to the final draft.
Climactic Moment 5
Similarly to the author and title bit, students have a hard time not giving away the resolution even when they identify the climactic moment.  They are really getting five points for not giving a plot spoiler.
Paragraph Five
Conclusion Paragraph 1   2   3   4   5
(Remind readers about what was important in tone, character and plot)
For very new writers, I sometimes dump the conclusion paragraph entirely.  I don’t count it against them.  If they are expected to write one, I’m looking to see how effectively they wrap up their ideas.
Over-all paper
Idea and Content Trait 1   2   3   4   5
As we move through the year, we will add Organization, Word Choice, and Voice.  This is the only time when their grade might be compromised by having a lower score on a trait.  Overall, it helps me to see if they have taken on board the suggestions from the second draft.  I’m looking to see if the score their peer gave them is reasonable and if their score improved by the changes they made.  I have been known to give extra credit if the students made changes which seriously improved their papers.
Grammar and Mechanics 1   2   3   4   5
I never take off points for the first grammar mistake.  No matter how many times you edit, you will always find a mistake.  Students find this reassuring.
Rubric 5
Students receive five points just for turning in this piece of paper with their work.  I rarely, if ever, write on a final draft.  I use the rubric to give feedback.  I know they are reading the rubric; they will never go back and read the notes on the paper because they are not writing another draft.  My time is frankly too precious to waste in writing things that students are not going to read.
Total for Final Draft: __ / 55 pts.
Students are always asked to add up the points to make sure I’ve done it correctly.
Total Paper: __ / 120 pts.
Et, voila!
Students are required to keep the work in their portfolio at school.  The rubric, however, can be taken home for “bragging rights”.  Although I always ask that they bring back the rubric, they never do.  It’s okay.  It’s all in my grading program in the end.

Week 29 – Why a Rubric?

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Essays are an important part of academia and scholarly thought from Plato to Ben Franklin to Carl Sagan.  Writing them and reading them place us in good company.  They are by no means the end all and be all of academic thought.  (Please see “The Readiness Is All“.)  However, I think that for sheer portability and packaging, the essay does such a lovely job of allowing thoughts to be communicated widely.  It seems such a shame, then, that essays which are being used for testing purposes are being deleted from databases, when they could be used to move thinking forward.

So we practice essays.  And to do this, we need a rubric.  I like rubrics.  For one, it requires my grader to prove that they are invested in the work I’ve done.  Once, in college, we were asked to do a project which we were then expected to present to the class.  I remember being truly hurt (not just my ego&#8212but my grade&#8212I was a scholarship student and couldn’t afford to have low grades) by the fact that the grading became a popularity contest.  And I argued, strongly, in class, that it was unjust to grade something when there was no way of knowing what the expectations were.  At that point, people were simply judging on what they liked.  That’s fine for Facebook, but it is a serious mistake in the classroom.  (I have to say that this still rankles.  I felt totally betrayed by my classmates and my professors. Hung out to dry.  That class was hell, and I think those professors should have known better.  Come on, HDSR, I hope you aren’t still pulling that crap.)  I vowed when I came into the classroom that my students would know how and why they were earning their grades.  Which brings us back to rubrics.

Here is an example of a rubric I usually start with at the beginning of the year.  It is a simple, five paragraph, expository essay.  Students tend to come to me having written “book reports” if they have written anything at all, and that’s fine; there’s nothing wrong with that.  However, book reports tend to be persuasive in bent.  They may give some information on plot, extol the virtues of the book that the student thinks the teacher wants to see, and wrap up by telling the reader to read the book.  As you will see, for the first few papers students write, I categorically deny them the right to say whether or not they liked the book for the purpose of moving them away from book reports.  First I teach them some basic elements of literature: plot, character, and setting.  Then I hand them this:

Rubric for Humanities 1 Paper
Part 1 – Independent Grades
Brainstorm and Plot Map 10 Due:
Outline 5 Due:
Rough Draft 10 Due:
Clang Session 5 Due:
Second Draft 10 Due:
Peer Edit 5 Due:
Third Draft 10 Due:
Personal Skills Record 10 Due:
Total: __ / 65 pts.
Part 2 – Final Draft Due:
Paragraph One – Introductory Paragraph
Introduce the paper.  (Touch on setting, characters, and plot.)

1   2   3   4   5
Author 5
Title 5
Paragraph Two
Setting 1   2   3   4   5
Atmosphere (tone) 1   2   3   4   5
Paragraph Three
Main Character 1   2   3   4   5
Paragraph Four
Plot Development 1   2   3   4   5
Climactic Moment 5
Paragraph Five
Conclusion Paragraph 1   2   3   4   5
(Remind readers about what was important in tone, character and plot)
Over-all paper
Idea and Content Trait 1   2   3   4   5
Grammar and Mechanics 1   2   3   4   5
Rubric 5
Final Draft Total: __ / 55 pts.
Paper Total: __ / 120 pts.

And that’s the beginning.  As the year goes on, and as students gain new skills, the rubric reflects what has been learned.  I think I will copy and paste the rubric into the next post so that I can dissect it for you.  The why is more important than the how.  But now I need to focus on which rubric to hand to my students tomorrow.  It may just be time for “Review/Reflection”.