Standard Met: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.6.5
What You Need: Copies of a short nonfiction text (such as a newspaper article), scissors, envelopes
What to Do: Who doesn’t love a puzzle? In this activity, students will piece together an article or nonfiction text that’s been pulled apart. To begin, prepare a text for each pair of students, cutting it into several chunks in places that break at the end of a sentence. (Keep in mind that longer blocks of text are easier to put back together.) Shuffle the chunks of text and place each set in an envelope.
Begin by discussing the importance of organizing a piece of writing. Ask students how writers organize their thoughts to make their work comprehensible. Chart answers: a thesis, details to back up the thesis, transition words, and a clear conclusion sentence.
Students then work in pairs to put the text together. After you reveal the original text, have students talk about how they were able to sequence the pieces. Encourage them to point to specifics like transition words or sentences that point to the main idea of each paragraph. Tell students to keep these organizational strategies in mind for their own writing.
Farewell, Bad Habits!
Standard Met: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.6.2
What You Need: Sample letter, pencils, Break Up With a Bad Habit printable
What to Do: As a unique way to strengthen expository writing, have students write a letter addressed to a bad habit they would like to eliminate!
Before beginning, create a sample letter. Choose a bad habit of your own that students can relate to (procrastination, drinking soda). Write a letter addressed to the habit. Include an introduction with a thesis and a short description of the habit, followed by two or three paragraphs with specific reasons for wanting to break the habit. Close the letter by reiterating the thesis and including the benefits of quitting this bad habit.
Then, to help students decide what to write about, have them brainstorm ideas with a partner, talking about their own bad habits, why they want to quit, and how they might go about this. Encourage them to think about what really matters to them and why. Chart responses for reference.
Before students start writing, display your own completed letter, pointing out key components, including style (date, greeting, etc.), thesis and main idea, supporting reasons, and conclusion. Ask them if the letter is effective in sharing your purpose and why.
Students can begin their independent work by answering questions on the prewriting sheet. In future lessons, they will write, edit, and revise their letters to prepare them for publishing.
Letter for Change
Standard Met: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.6.1
What You Need: Sample text, pencils, writing paper, Letter for Social Change printable
What to Do: What do your students care about? Here, they will write a persuasive letter to a public servant, corporation, or business owner addressing an issue in the community that they believe needs to be changed. They will take a stance, support it, and work to persuade readers that they have the power to make the change.
Before beginning, you will need to find or create a model text. It should include an introduction with a clear purpose for writing, two or three body paragraphs with reasons to support the claim, and a conclusion building upon the introduction. The letter should display strong transitions and clear structure and organization.
Begin a mini-lesson by brainstorming and charting a list of social issues students feel strongly about. For example, they may want to expand a community recycling program or request that a storeowner improve accessibility for customers with disabilities. In pairs, students choose one issue and discuss at least two reasons why they feel strongly about it. This will be the basis of their writing. Then, they determine who might receive their letter based on the issue (a local government official, small business owner, etc.) and add those names to the chart.
Next, students work independently to flesh out one idea. Have them complete the prewriting sheet to develop their main ideas, strong reasons to support their claims, and evidence for counterarguments. Wrap up the lesson by discussing next steps, including how to organize letters, strategies for writing and editing, and how to send the letters (by mail, e-mail, etc.).
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