Many fifth graders are now finishing up their interpretive essays in which their thesis statement focused on themselves and their beliefs. They have learned how to support those statements with stories, quotes, and other facts. Now it is time to encourage those students to do the next round of interpretive essay writing. This is similar to what they just finished, but this time they will be using a book character.
The first day of this unit of study will be spent picking a character for the essay. It could be someone from their independent reading, one from the class read aloud, or one from a basal story. They will look back over any notes from their reader's notebook and find ones they have written about who would be worth including in an essay. So, by the end of that day they would have the character and an idea of an angle that will become a thesis statement the next day.
On the second day, the students will not only write the thesis statement, but will also begin to plan how their essay will go. They might box the ideas out in their notebook or use a story board to do their planning. They would have a good idea of which scenes will be useful to turn into anecdotes. They might have lists of examples that would give evidence to assemble into their supportive paragraphs. This would be the thinking necessary to plan for the essay.
Next, they will begin to assemble the evidence. This would be the scenes or lists that they had planned to use. This might be a good time to have a specific way to collect this material. On a visit to a classroom in New York City, I was able to observe an interesting way to do this. The teacher had made a type of accordion folder for each student. That folder would have many parts to it, just like the ones you could purchase in a story. On the cover or front of the folders the students had the thesis statement. On each of the separate folder tabs was a support statement. As the students collected (wrote) the stories, anecdotes, lists, quotes, they were then put into the corresponding folder. When they had collected all the evidence, they then could use what they felt would best support their thesis.
The paragraphs would then be written focusing on each of the supportive evidence. Now it is time to spend several days on the revision. This would focus on elaboration. In other words they would explain HOW a scene supports the claim they made in the thesis statement.
Since the students have already written the first personal essay, this one should not take as long to write. Some children might even want to do multiple characters if they have time. This unit of study is the backbone of the future essays they will be writing this year.