Personal Essay Body Paragraphs

Last week I shared I had begun personal essays with my students. This was the first attempt for both my students and myself tackling this genre. I focused solely on the structure for several days and we drafted many flash drafts. I made mini-charts detailing the structure for students to have close at hand. You can see the chart here.

Once students had become more comfortable with the structure I decided to do an on-demand style assessment to see what they could do with less hand holding. It was eye opening. I noticed that many students were following the structure, but as structures do, it was limiting their ability to elaborate and generate details that would add interest. I also noticed that all the work we did on paragraphing during our personal narrative unit was absent. I decided I needed to break this portion of the essay down a bit deeper for students.

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We worked together to make a chart showing the breakdown of what our body paragraphs would look like. Students definitely need more time to digest this new genre. I am learning a lot about what pieces I can use from our narrative unit to support this new unit. I think my next step is to work on the elaboration of their supporting evidence. I’m a little worried it could turn into an “and then, and then” situation! We will be talking about how to say a lot in a few sentences to support their statement. We also need to discuss ideas for paragraph transitions.  A T-chart may also make an appearance showing our common problems (confusion and common problems with solutions on the other side to help those still struggling).

I have one more week to cram in as much as I can before the holiday break and then I will only have a few weeks to review and cross my fingers. Hope to revisit this topic with good news in January!