Middle School WritingHi. I will be teaching a writing class for 6-7 graders this summer and wanted some advice. I have taught essay writing for 9-10 graders and use short essays to read and...
Hi. I will be teaching a writing class for 6-7 graders this summer and wanted some advice. I have taught essay writing for 9-10 graders and use short essays to read and then either write about or emulate. This way I can cover the different types of essays (definition, comparison/contrast, analysis, cause/effect, argument, etc.). I need advice on what essays to use to adapt this class for younger students. Thanks so much!
I have taught writing to 6-8th graders for 20 years. There is so much you can do with this age group! Some great essay ideas are character sketches, setting essays, redeeming qualities essay, bumper sticker theme essays....
Character sketch is pretty self explanatory, but essentially is a snapshot of character. I love to read Snapshot of a Dog by James Thurber as a great example of how to SHOW NOT TELL about someone (or some animal). If you are teaching literature too, you can focus on character driven novels or stories. I taught The Secret Garden to 6th graders this year and we tracked character, and the students also wrote a critical essay about character evolution (Colin or Mary).
Setting essay: a favorite place described vividly without the narrator/writer being in the writing, except maybe very peripherally. No "I" until the last line when the narrator can interact or engage, do some action that pulls us through the looking glass into the place.
Redeeming quality: Think of something no one likes, something awful, and argue that it does have a few redeeming qualities after all. It is a persuasive essay, essentially. I've had students select roadkill, their kid brother, dirty diapers, Hummers.... The list goes on. Some great humor.
Bumper stickers often state universal themes one can use to spark kids to write personal essays that reflect or convey that idea. It's cool to have real bumper stickers the kids can shuffle through and select... or print outs are fine. Things that may capture their interest like: Question the Answers, or Humans aren't the only species, we just act like it.
Good luck with your class -- there are many more ideas, and other sparks you can use. I'll revisit this discussion later.
I currently teach 7th grade literature, and I use many short stories in my writing classes to serve as writing prompts for my students. Some of my and their favorite short stories that I have used are "The Lady or the Tiger," "The Man Without a Country," anything by O. Henry, and "The Necklace." I also use fairy tales (especially comparing fairy tales from different countries around the world). I find that using short stories and fairy tales are especially effective in teaching compare/contrast essays and analysis essays.
In many ways, you approach the teaching of writing the same but expect a lowe level of complexity. The hardest thing for you will be recognizing what level of work is acceptable at this grade level. Remember that they are young, but are actually capable of quite a lot. Have them use the writing process, and include peer and self-review. Using a writer's workshop approach works best, including conferencing with writers before they revise.
Check out the following:
If you haven't yet, join your local writing project's summer institute. You will get great ideas!
Thanks to all for your suggestions. They are very helpful!