Engaging Students in Authentic Reading and Writing
Jenee Ramos engages students in reading and writing about topics that are relevant to their lives.
Teacher: Jenee Ramos
School: Brookline High School, Brookline, MA
Discipline: English (Real-World Literature)
Lesson Topic: Polishing creative pieces for publishing
Lesson Month: May
Number of Students: 23
Featured Lesson’s Student Goals:
- Content objectives – Use sentence-level and paragraph-level revision strategies appropriate for application in their own memoirs
- Literacy/language objectives – Use literary/editing vocabulary to explain orally and in writing the benefits of revision choices to the memoir draft
- Engagement/interaction objectives – Confer with classmates in small groups about effective revision decisions for their individual pieces in conversation and in writing.
Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts
Use precise words and phrases, telling details, and sensory language to convey a vivid picture of the experiences, events, setting, and/or characters.
Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
Respond thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarize points of agreement and disagreement, and, when warranted, qualify or justify their own views and understanding and make new connections in light of the evidence and reasoning presented.
This six-week unit focused on revising and polishing creative pieces from earlier in the year. Students emulated the writing style of model authors they had studied early in the quarter, created a class magazine of their polished work, and located and pursued publishing outside of the building. The lesson on polishing writing occurred toward the end of the unit and used a workshop model.
This is a humanities-based alternative course to standard World Literature, in which students read more contemporary and relevant works and write about what matters to them. The first two quarters are classic literature; the last two quarters are more open-ended to give students autonomy to explore and write about what they want.
Before the Video
Much of the quarter was spent looking at model writing for features of form and content development and practicing various elements of creative writing, like point of view and dialogue. Model works included short fiction such as Donald Barthelme's "The School" and poetry such as Erika Funkhauser's "The Accident." Sometimes the writing study was at the word and sentence level—how do we change boring verbs to vivid verbs, and how do those changes impact reader experience with our pieces? At other times the writing study concerned larger concept issues—what can we do to establish the kind of narrative voice we want through our choice of diction?
During the Video
Ms. Ramos began the lesson on polishing writing by reviewing the Self-Revision Checklist and the Peer Commenting Checklist. She discussed how to engage the reader by having an interesting opening to the writing. Afterward, students partnered up to look at examples of openings on notecards and identified the technique the writer used. The pairs then shared out to the class their thoughts on the openings. Ms. Ramos met with small groups for a mini-lesson on revising for sentence variety, where students looked at varying sentence lengths and structures. They also did an exercise modifying a sentence to create a paragraph that is “musical.”
After the Video
After the lesson, students created and revised creative pieces from throughout the year for the purposes of publishing in the class literary journal and outside of school.
To prepare for the lesson, Ms. Ramos read and responded to individual student writing. From there, she created mini-lessons on various skill needs she had observed.
To participate in this lesson, students needed to know basic writing conventions and have some familiarity with story arc and personal writing.
Ms. Ramos used her knowledge of the students—their strengths and weaknesses—and their interests to differentiate instruction. She gave her students many options and did mini-lessons to allow for differentiated instruction. Throughout the year, Ms. Ramos grouped her students in different configurations, which allowed her to see how each student was doing. She pushed and challenged or supported and reinforced where needed.
In committees for the magazine, students read submissions and peer comments and guided pieces through revisions.
Resources and Tools
- Creative/Expository Writing Editing Checklist handout
- Self-Revision Checklist handout
- Peer Commenting Checklist handout
Ms. Ramos walked around the classroom and checked in with students.
Students assessed their writing using a Self-Revision Checklist.
Students turned in Peer Commenting Checklistsfor their memoir and a final draft with revision changes highlighted in their document.