Writing Appetizers: Why & How

At the beginning of every class I have my students complete a “writing appetizer.” I have the students write one paragraph responding to a topic I select each day. (If you are missing any writing appetizers please click on the Writing App. tab on the home page  to download and print them. Write your responses on the back of the page or on a separate sheet of paper.)

All it takes to get a great score on the writing appetizers is to write one paragraph, but not just any three or four sentences will do. Here’s the guidelines I’ve set up to help the students write solid paragraphs:

In this post the example writing prompt is: “What is your biggest fear? Describe a time when you had to face that fear.”

Sentence One: A topic sentence stating what you are going to talk about. This sentence should respond to the prompt without any fluff or extras. For example: “My greatest fear is being left alone.”

Sentence Two: The second sentence should explain the topic sentence just written: “Being left alone scares me the most because I am afraid of what might happen without someone there to help me.”

Sentence Three: A sentence or two giving an example or a student’s  personal experience with the topic: “I was left alone once in eighth grade while my parents went to the store. It was at night and the power went out all of a sudden.”

Sentence Four: A sentence to sum up or conclude what the paragraph was about: “The time I was left alone in eighth grade was when I had to face my fear of being alone.”

If my students write me four sentences that 1) introduce a topic, 2) explain the topic, 3) give an example of the topic, and 4) conclude the paragraph, then they will make a great score on the writing appetizers. Also, these guidelines help my students write great paragraphs in all their classes and for the rest of their lives; that’s the skill I’m trying to teach with the writing appetizers.


Wednesday, March 23rd Draft Graphic Organizer

In class today we began working on the rough drafts of our “Countries of the World” persuasive Essay. You can download and print the Five Paragraph Graphic Organizer by clicking on the link. Here’s how to fill out the organizer:

1. In the top box labeled “Introduction,” you should write three sentences complimenting you country, for example, “France is an excellent country to visit.” Write a couple of sentences like that and then add your thesis statement you wrote using the “Why Chart” from last class. The thesis statement should be the last sentence of your introductory paragraph.

2. Your essay will include three body paragraphs or main ideas. In each box labeled “main idea” you will put one of the topics you used in your thesis statement. Your three main ideas are the three reasons you use in your thesis statement. So, if your thesis statement sounds like this: “Everyone should visit Texas to eat the delicious BBQ, see the Alamo, and go to Six Flags,” then the three main ideas you will write about are 1. eating delicious BBQ, 2. seeing the Alamo, and 3. going to Six Flags. Each reason is its own body paragraph.

3. In the vertical boxes under each main idea, you will write one sentence about the main idea. In the first box you will write a topic sentence about the main idea, for example: “The first reason to visit Texas is to eat the delicious BBQ made there.” Notice how I used the word “first” to introduce the first main idea in the essay.

In the second vertical box you should write a fact supporting your topic sentence. Your facts come from your research packet. Be sure to include the source you got the facts from. For example: “Texas BBQ gets its juicy flavor from the beef it is made from. Other states like Georgia, make BBQ from pork” (BBQ Masters, 2010). Uses facts that support your opinion. Be sure to write down where you got your facts from.

In the third vertical box you should write a summary sentence. The summary sentence should include information that is both fact and opinion. For example: “The chance to taste delicious beef BBQ is a great reason to visit the Lone Star State.”

4. Repeat step #3 for the remaining two main ideas.

5. Write a conclusion to your essay. Remember, a conclusion should NOT introduce any new facts or main ideas. A conclusion should sum up your essay and your opinion about whether or not people should visit your country. The conclusion paragraph should be three sentences long. Restate your thesis in a different form in the first sentence of the conclusion paragraph. For example: “In conclusion, the delicious beef BBQ, historic Alamo, and exciting Six Flags theme park are three great reason why everyone should visit Texas.”

After filling out the Rough Draft Graphic Organizer writing your rough draft on notebook paper or on your computer should be extremely easy. Also, the Organizer should help you essay be more organized and on topic.

Monday 21, 2011 Why Charts

On Monday we completed the “Why Chart” (click on the link to print the worksheet) and began writing thesis statements. If you completed the “Why Chart” it should help you write your thesis statement for “Country Persuasive Paper.”

Here’s how to do the “Why Chart”:

1. Write your name on top and select whether or not you want your reader to visit the country you researched. Just check yes or no. This decision shows your bias. (Remember: bias= how one’s position on an issue affects the evidence they use to prove their point.)

2. In the middle column, list three reasons why someone should or should not visit your country. These reasons should be expressed as opinions, for example, “Visit Sri Lanka to see the beautiful temples.” Beautiful is a value word, like good, better, bad, wonderful, etc., that cannot be proven, therefore it’s an opinion.

3. In the far right column, provide evidence from your research packet that can be used to support your reasons. For example, “Sri Lankan temples are over 300 years old and are decorated with ancient Buddhist art (Example Book, 2010).”  Evidence needs to be factual and from a reliable source. Notice how I cited which book I got the information from.

4. In the left column, rank your reasons in order from weakest to strongest. Your thesis and your essay will present your reasons from weakest to strongest. After you complete the “Why Chart,” writing your thesis statement will be much easier.

Next post will be about writing your thesis!

Welcome to Change the Words

Hello students, welcome to “Change the Words.” Hopefully we can think up a better title together, but until then, I challenge you to change the way you think about words. Words have power because they have meaning. I want to write with purpose and power.