We recently worked on a project that integrated text-based writing with Florida history. In this post, you will learn how the students formed an opinion, selected their evidence, and wrote their final essays. This project helped students both learn Florida history and improve their evidence-based writing skills.
Make an Outline from the Notes
Once student completed their rankings, we worked on creating an outline for our essays. I created a guide sheet that explained how to organize a topic sentence, evidence, analysis, and a conclusion. Before we even began our essays, we went over the parts of our essay and glued the sheet into our notebooks. (I am very big on gluing everything down. If it is glued in the notebook, it doesn’t get lost!)
Select the Evidence
After we did that, I returned the ranking sheets to students. I had them place that sheet on their desk next to their open notebooks. We walked through our essay outline together. On my outline, I labeled each sentence so students could see the pattern in our writing. This helped a lot of students, although some did need more support as they worked on their own essay.
First, I showed my ranking sheet and created a topic sentence. For example, “Agriculture is the most important Florida industry.” Short and sweet. Did I allow students to copy that and change the industry as needed? I sure did. This is our first big essay with evidence, and if students needed that support they could use it.
Next, we discussed what we needed to do to convince people that our industry was indeed the most important. We pretended that we worked for the governor and had to convince him that our industry needed his support. I asked students to help me pick a fact that would help convince him.
Hint: We had them written down as our reasons for supporting our ranking.
Yes, some smarties figured that our quickly and pointed it out to the class! Oohs and aahs all around when students understood that they already had their evidence written down – they just had to copy it!
Analyze the EvidenceThe hardest part of the essay was the analysis. We did some of the evidence and analysis together, then students worked on it alone. Students selected the fact from their ranking sheet and write it down as “evidence.” Under that, students wrote the analysis.
In order to help them understand why they needed to analyze, I pulled out my analogies again. We talked about when they really want something from the store, how do they convince their parents to get it? What works and what doesn’t? For example, my son wants fancy headphones, and he has been trying for a while to convince me that he needs expensive ones. Clearly, his argument is lacking because he doesn’t have them yet.
“My sister broke them.” Well, he has no proof of that, so it isn’t very convincing.
“The cat chewed the cord.” Why did you leave them out where the cat could get them?
Students understood pretty quickly how fast his evidence was getting dismissed. So we talked about how he could make his evidence more convincing. Eventually students decided that if he explained in more detail what happened, he had a better chance. BINGO. More detail. That is the purpose of the analysis – explaining why the fact proves your opinion.
Write the Essay
Once students completed their outlines, I showed them how their essay was completely written for them – they just had to write it as a final paragraph. (We did this another day. I find fourth graders do not have a lot of stamina for writing in the first quarter.)