Tuesday, February 05, 2008

FUN with Essays (Yes, FUN)

My revised introduction to essays plan worked like a charm! David enjoyed it immensely. Here is what we did last week:

Day One:
I printed out three things:
I explained the importance of being able to write an essay (namely, the SAT and college). Then, we worked together to read the sample essay and circle and/or discuss the twenty elements. I told him he would have quizzes on the definitions and flow chart from Essay Architect later in the week.

Day Two:
Day One's essay was somewhat informal to ease David into the topic, so I printed out an academic essay comparing the writing styles of Stephen King and Edgar Allen Poe. I guided David through the process of identifying the elements of an essay.

Day Three:
I printed out two easy essays for David to try one his own. The first essay tries to convince the read that cats are man's best friend (HA!), while the second one was David Kees' vent, dripping with irony, about the pitfalls of the five-paragraph essay. The latter was written poorly on purpose to mock badly written essays turned in by high schoolers. David laughed the entire time while he identified the elements and listed the missing elements. He snickered at figuring out the writer had cut and pasted the thesis statement from the introduction into the conclusion.

Day Four:
I printed out a blank flow chart (the first quiz), and David filled it out perfectly! I gave him two essays from 2007's SAT: one with a score of one and another with the maximum score of six. We discussed the stark contrast between the two essays. Again, the poorly written essay made David chuckle and gave him insight about what to avoid: misspell words, give no details, follow no structure, vaguely ramble on about your point, etc.

Day Five:
I gave David the blank definition sheet and assigned him copywork for the elements of an essay. The quiz requires him to match the elements with their definitions. Now, that he has a working knowledge of the elements, the wording is more likely to stick. Then, I gave him the quiz and he passed with flying colors!

I want to make a point here about the difference between oral lessons and Charlotte Mason style teaching. While I like the graphic organizers in Essay Architect, I find the lessons plans typical of mind-numbing oral lessons eschewed by Charlotte. My rational was to give David a working knowledge of the twenty elements by applying them to real essays. Having to reproduce his understanding of these elements is a form of narration. Our discussions about the various essays and their elements was also narrating what we knew. I did not have him copy any definitions until he had a working knowledge of essays and their elements because he needed prior knowledge to make more solid and lasting connections. He did not study at all for either quiz, and he aced them both! Why? We narrate and then we know!


LAA and Family said...

You are such a good teacher! It is so important to individualize teaching methods and you are so good about doing this for your children. In addition, you have a gift for clearly sharing your experiences with us and explaining the "why" of what you do!

Niffercoo said...

Wow! Very cool! You never cease to amaze me, Tammy! You're an awesome mom and teacher for your children! Jen

Anonymous said...

I think of you as a modern Annie Sullivan, and I am very grateful for your generous knowledge and helpful insights that you share. Sincerely,DianeG.

walking said...

I read everything I could about Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan when I was in school. But, I didn't want to be a teacher and ended up being a naval officer. I think God had other plans in mind!