Writing the interpretive essay is a first step in argument writing. It is a way to help students have a thesis statement and support that statement with evidence. This month many fifth graders will be doing this. They will have two essays to write (plan, draft, revise, edit). The first one is a personal essay. Starting with the personal essay gives them topics they feel comfortable writing so they can focus on the process of this genre. This essay will take ten days to complete.
Starting on day one, the teacher can help students by going over a list of character traits. Helping them see these traits as personal will give them the tools they need to write their thesis statement. In other words, they will pick out traits that sound like them personally. Immersing them in this genre would be beneficial also. After a focus lesson on these traits, teachers will send them off to list several they could prove were traits they have. The notebook is perfect for this.
On day two, the focus lesson would teach students how to "try out" their statement to see if it is going to be a good fit for them. Modeling this for them with two - three samples would be the best way to go. Students would then work in their notebook and do two to three samples. This would be a thesis statement for each sample and then two to three stories. For this day the story would not have to be written out---just a title would work.
By the third day all students should have a thesis statement to turn in to the teacher. Now the focus lesson could be on planning the essay. How many small moment stories can you write to support this? How many quotes do you have for support? The plan could be a flow chart of the essay: statement, story, story, quote, story, conclusion. Each student would come up with their own plan naming each story.
From day four to day seven the students would be collecting stories to support their thesis. The focus lesson would be the teacher modeling her own way of collecting and writing her own stories. Students will collect and write more stories than they will use. Other lessons will be on quotes or other methods of support for the thesis statement.
On day eight to ten, the paper is ready to be put together using the strongest stories and quotes. This is the revising phases. Mini lessons on using transitioning words will be helpful. Also modeling how the teacher puts her essay together is a powerful focus lesson. Editing after it is written is the next step.
After the class has gone this far, it would be beneficial to share the essays in some sort of reflection. The next ten days will now focus on essay number two!