Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Interpretive Essay or Argument Writing

The Common Core State Standards have focused on three basic types of writing: narrative, informational, and argument. The interpretive essay/argument writing, is the next unit of study for many fifth graders. When I first saw this, I thought about how tough this would be for ten-eleven year olds. But if we break it down as it is done in A Curricular Plan For The Writing Workshop, Grade 5, it is manageable.

This month students will be writing two essays--one grounded in their lives and one in the lives of characters they have been reading about in literature--read alouds, independent reading, book clubs. To start this unit it will be easier for the children to write about an opinion and theory. They will dig deep to grow ideas about themselves. They might want to start by writing a list in their notebook: "I am the kind of person who..."

The students will choose a theory and write a thesis statement, for example: "I am the kind of person who cares about others." Taking the statement they will notice events and happenings that support or challenge that theory. Collecting these small stories can be done in their notebooks. This is where gathering evidence come into play. The stories, quotes, and observations will be the evidence to support their statement.

The organizing of these collections has to be done in a logical fashion. Perhaps, lessons on transitional phrases to show how each part supports their thesis statement will need to be done. Seeing what students are doing as they write, will drive your instruction.

They will need to learn how to use quotes, anecdotes and observations within the essay. It will take about two weeks to draft and revise this first essay. It will be rigorous work, but remember it will be approximating. You are teaching the writer...not the writing!


Jennifer McDunnough said...

KATHY - I am thrilled that you are blogging about the Interpretive Essay. I am helping the fifth grade teachers plan this unit of study next week. None of us have taught this genre and are excited to get started. I'd like to stay in touch and "collaborate" with you as we delve further into the instruction with students. Come by Washington in October any time - we'd love your input!

my classroom is my runway said...

I really enjoy teaching Interpretive Essay. I taught it for the first time last year, and it really got my students thinking about themselves as characters in their own lives asking, "What do my actions say about me?" My reading Unit of Study is Following Characters into Meaning, which let's us use all we learn about characters in essay writing.

Kelli Johnson said...

my classroom is my runway: any suggestions for teaching this unit for the first time? I am struggling to get started with it.