Teaching writing is tricky. You can’t really lecture about good writing. I can explain what a thesis statement is, how the essay needs to be organized, and what a concluding paragraph should look like. The best way, often, is to show what these elements of good writing look like.
Today, I selected introduction paragraphs from five different student essays. I pasted them onto one sheet handout – I asked permission from the students, of course. The class read the intro paragraphs and ranked them from “most best” and “least best”. Then we talked about what worked and didn’t work in each of them. They could spot the ones that worked and the ones that didn’t quite work. They identified the way one seemed to just jump right into the thesis without a proper context. They also found that one of them was redundant in the middle, the “bridge” between the first sentence and the thesis statement. They also found that one started with an eye-catching factoid that grabbed their attention.
Such a good teaching moment. I think I saw a few light bulbs light up!