The students wrote or typed the final draft and put it in their folder, which contains all of their notes, quick write, completed template, and earlier drafts of the essay. Before they handed in the folders, I had them look over the papers in their folders and write a response to this question: "What are two things you learned about how to be a better writer?" Most of the students wrote about how they finally understood how to organize an essay; many wrote about how they always thought they should just write something and hand it in, but that now they realized how much work they needed to do to produce quality writing. Many of them also expressed confidence that they would be able to pass the writing test.
I grew up with this fear: that the material that was near to me would be no good. I would have to live a life that would somehow bring me nearer to the topics “real” literature was about: war, violence, politics, travel and adventure. To this end, I moved to New York, traveled to India, and dated men who could tell me about the worlds I did not have access to, men who had been to prison, men who had been homeless, men who had been in mental institutions. I was troubled by my female protagonists who seemed to have so many emotions. They would have to go; they would have to change. I would have to change. In short, I was certain that what I really needed to do was write for men. I’m not sure anyone has written more combustibly about this recently than Claire Vaye Watkins in her essay She writes of her short story collection Battleborn:
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Lovely, raging essay, locating the source of that anger so succinctly (and I get the underwear pick-up thing–no judging, here) that many have responded as I might have done at that age, when I faced all those conflicts. But somewhere I read a line from a Famous Woman who said that the time frame for women is different for men, so why do we attempt to achieve on a male timeline? I only offer that up to say that perhaps that this reality is also a driver for this struggle–that feeling that we’ll miss out if we aren’t the cool, happening young writer/creator/singer/whatever, with the operative word being “young.”
Writing a Winning Essay | Colorín Colorado
It was time to prepare for writing. I gave the students an essay topic: "How to be a Successful Student." First they did a "quick write" on the topic and wrote for five minutes without stopping or lifting their pencil off the paper. The quick write was just to get a lot of ideas on the page and not to worry about spelling, grammar, or mechanics. When they finished the quick write, I asked them to circle some of the points they thought were important and choose their top three. Then I gave them copies of the template we had created, and we began to fill in the information paragraph by paragraph. On the template, paragraph one looked something like this:
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Once the students had their essay templates complete, they began to write their essays. We discussed the concept of "first draft," "second draft" and "final draft." I made it clear that this would be a "sloppy copy." They just needed to write the essay using the information on their template. The students wrote the essays that were fairly basic, almost a straight copy from what they had written on the template. The first draft was well-organized but lacked personality, and contained spelling and grammar errors. Nevertheless, we took a moment as a class to pat ourselves on the back for creating well-organized essays.
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We then worked in groups to "peer edit" the essays. In groups of four, each student had a "job" to do in reviewing the other group members' essays. One student checked for spelling, one for grammar, and one for vocabulary. The vocabulary checker read the essay to highlight areas where the author could use more appropriate or exciting vocabulary. I gave the students the example of the overuse of the word "good." For example, "My mother is a really good person. She cooks good food and she is a good friend to many people." The students talked about different words that could be used besides "good" in the sentences — such as kind, wonderful, great, delicious, excellent, helpful, etc. The peer editors made their marks and suggestions, but the author did not have to accept them if they didn't agree. Next, the students did a re-write to create their second draft.