To This Day – A Writing Lesson

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I teach English as a Second Language, which means I teach reading, writing, listening & speaking, and grammar. One of the best parts of my job is that I can use any subject area to spark discussion and teach these skills. Better yet, the more subject areas I use, the greater the amount of vocabulary and background knowledge I can share with my students to help prepare them for future college classes. This lesson that follows is one that I would use in a writing class early in the semester when working on introduction paragraphs.

remind101Pre-mail Reminder – Using Blackboard or Remind 101 – I send my students a reminder email at least 2 days before class reminding them that they need to bring an entrance ticket to get into the next class (I will also have played this up in the previous class, where I will have told them that they won’t be admitted into class without the entrance ticket). The entrance ticket is to bring a short list of the most effective essay introduction techniques. I will ask them to find and rank the top five techniques and give a brief explanation justifying why those are the top five.

Entrance Ticket – In order to get into class, each student will need to show me his or her list of effective essay introduction techniques. If students show up without the entrance tickets, I will not let them in, but instead ask them do the work before gaining entrance to the class. I would tell them to take out a piece of paper and their smart phone and get to work right there in the hall. I know that different teachers might handle this in different ways, but I want students to understand that the work they do in preparing for class is critical to their learning. In the past, I have found that it is critical to set high expectations and hold to them. There are always one or two students to who have to sit out in the hall and finish the entrance tickets the first time, but once they know I am serious, their behavior toward future classes and future assignments tends to shift.

Report In – During the first five to ten minutes of class, I have students report in on what they found in their research on the top five techniques. We write the list on the board and rank the techniques by number of votes. The students who forgot their entrance tickets, usually finish up and gain entrance while this is happening and they can then contribute and see that their homework was integral to what we were going to be discussing in class.  Once everyone is in class, and we have our top five as rated by the class, I show them To This Day, a spoken word poem and TED Ed video by Shane Koyczan.

Infographic – After watching the video, we have a group discussion on bullying and during the process, I share this sample infographic.

In Class Smart Device Assignment – After discussing the information graphic and the surprising statistics found in it, I ask student to use their own smart devices to look for some other infographics or other web pages to find statistics on bullying. I also challenge them and ask them “Who can find the most startling statistic?” As they begin to shout out their startling statistics, I remind them that using startling statistics is a good technique for introducing paragraphs

Modeling the use of statistics in an introduction paragraph – In a guided discussion, I take student to . We discuss some of the statistics we find there, the reliability of the source, and I would again model to them how to use content from a source, direct and indirect quotes,  and including in-text and end-of-text citations using Easy Bib and the MLA format. (Plagiarism and citing sources are introduced earlier in the semester, this is more practice)

Their Turn – I would then give them some time to try writing an introduction paragraph using statistics, direct & indirect quotes, and MLA citations. They would get feedback from their peers in class (Think, Pair, Share), and I would also be walking around to give individual assistance.

Stories & Anecdotes – After they have had some time to practice and get some initial feedback, I would move the discussion away from statistics in the direction of using stories and anecdotes to introduce essays. I usually give one or two verbal examples as time is running out and we don’t have time to practice these in class.

Teach Me Ask Me – Exit Ticket – After each class students are asked to Teach Me – Ask Me. This is their Exit Ticket to the class. What they need to do is give me their name and either teach me something interesting they learned in class or ask me a question about something they didn’t understand or would like to learn more about. They do this via a google survey that reports to a spread sheet and allows me to easily see what they are learning and what they have trouble with. Here is the link or click on the image below.


The Homework – In Blackboard, they will find a writing assignment with supporting links to MLA help, Easy Bib, our class notes, the statistics we shared, the TED Ed Video, and more. There will also be the following two prompts with instructions to write an essay on one of the given topics paying specific attention to having an engaging introduction:

  • Tell me about a time when you or someone else you know was bullied, what happened, why do you think it happened, how could it have been prevented?
  • There seems to be an increase in bullying and cyber bullying, what can we as a society do to prevent this or at the very least, limit the damaging effects?

The Feedback – Using Jing I send each student their own personal video screencast inside of Blackboard giving them specific formative feedback on their introduction paragraphs and ideas for how to enhance them.


4 Responses to “To This Day – A Writing Lesson”

  1. ssookhaimahadeo

    This method seems to be a very effective device for getting students to “do the homework” and to show them the “value” of the homework.
    I will try this with my Biology students in the Fall semester.
    Excellent “carrot-on-a-stick”, motivational tool here. Thank you for this!

  2. bsartor

    What a wonderfully constructed, rich assignment! They are improving their communication skills while participating in an activity that is engaging and meaningful. I love that you provide individual feedback. Every student should feel like they matter…

  3. mgreavesrodolfo

    i like this assignment. This will get them more involve in the assignment and they can banter between them giving each other feedback at the same time. It may cause a little competition to see who can be better at writing or even explaining a lesson


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