Michael J. Allen

Class of 2018 - 2019

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Writing Workshop Mini lessons: Essays


Lesson 1

Making observations then thinking about them


Writing about big ideas not small moments

Essay involves observe then grow ideas about observations

•   'I notice' then 'This makes me think' or 'I'm realizing that'

•   Example Katherine Paterson p3

•   Example 2 chained up dog p 3

Example from me – I noticed the crushed squirrel – made me think about the shortness of life – how important to live it fully.


Try example with partner 'write in the air' (do example)

Share Michael Examples from p6 and 7

Look around the room. Observe something then practice It makes me think with partner.

Go over examples that you hear.

Read from p 5 live alert lives then push ourselves to have ideas about what we experience.

Start with:

'I notice'

2nd paragraph - 'I am starting to think that...'



Make observations and have a thought about observations. At least one page!

Give examples from disc – Takuma's writing 1.3 and 1.4

Lesson 2

Making observations then thinking about them – part 2

Share homework observations.

Draw T chart /

What I notice

What it makes me think









We need to grow our ideas - use chart

Do an example in front of the class.

Model activity – making observation then having a thought.

Kids try it out. I call out the change - 'And the idea I have about this is...'

I start observing something. Partner calls out 'And the idea I have about this is...'

Share Sophie from p16 notice the phrases she uses to push her thinking on: when I really think about it, when I think about it deeply,

Practice with a partner seeing in the room, then from memory - remember being at home

Name and list ideas


•   Taught me how to work

•   Always grumpy but kind

•   Made me tougher


Choose someone at home do the chart and chose one of the ideas to write about.

Lesson 3

Contrasting Narrative and Non-narrative


Writers need to imagine the kind of text they’re writing. What exactly is an essay?

Contrast features of story versus non narrative

Stories organized by time - Non Narrative organized by ideas

Stories organized by character who travels through story- Non Narrative organized by ideas developed across text.

Stories organized for reader to participate- Non Narrative organized so reader can think about the ideas.

What do NN essays contain?

Show chart from p31

Writers need to choose/be aware of what their writing is – NN or story?



You can write about things in narrative or non narrative ways. Use example of walk to park signs of winter everywhere

•   Huddled up walks and coats

•   Leaves gone

•   Less people


Arrival in class and the morning routine

Morning is chaotic. The pledge is being spoiled, etc.



Choose 'going home to do homework' to express an idea and back it up.

Write your thoughts!


Lesson 4

Conversational prompts to spur elaboration


How can we right more about our ideas?

Using conversational prompts



Analyze essay from p 36 about parent fighting.

•   Intro states thesis and names the main points with catchy lead

•   Body paragraph - Topic sentence states point. Three Examples from own experience to prove point

•   Topic sentence. Three examples from own experience to prove point

•   Same again for paragraph 3

•   Conclusion restate main points



Pushing Our Thinking



Use the prompts in a class example

•   I learn things at recess time.

•   Then use the prompts. 'For example', then 'Another example is', then 'to add on' - then a hard one - 'this makes me realize...'. Last hard one - 'this is important because'.

Try one on your own using prompts. Start with the idea. Homework is a good/ bad idea because....



Use at least five prompts for a piece of writing 'I like animals'.



Strategies for Generating Essay Entries

Lesson 5

Generating Essay writing from narrative writing


Share Paterson from p57

Writers can be inspired by their own previous writing.

Ask these questions:

•   Why is this important to me?

•   What is the important thing about this?

•   Why am I remembering this?

•   How does it connect to who I am and to important issues in my life?

•   What does this show about me? About life? What does this make me realize?

•   Why did I write this?

•   What do I want readers to know about this?

•   What surprises me about this?



Return to the story of the Hat! Use this chart to ask questions about my story.

Partner 1 – choose a narrative – read aloud to partner 2 then have some thoughts about what was written. Partner 2 ask questions from chart. After you have said a thought and talked it out. Partner 2 using Pushing Our thinking chart. Goal is for partner 1 to 'write in the air' what they could write in an entry,.

Switch and do the same for Partner 2.


Crafting the thesis.

Writers need to find the seed idea called a thesis.

•   Give example from p 73 about friendship.

•   Example 2 - kids need to get more exercise p 74 - go over this example in detail.

•   Note: more general easier to develop but lead to less stellar work

•   More specific thesis statements are better

•   Three kinds of claim

•   Fact - objectively verifiable

•   Value - approval or disapproval of taste or morality - movie reviews

•   Policy - suggest institution liked change as solution to problem - there ought to be a law


Now it's time to craft your thesis idea

•   Is this topic something I know and care about?

•   Is my thesis an idea or an opinion - not just a fact and not a question?

•   Is my thesis exactly what I want to address?

•   Is my thesis a strong clear claim?

•   Is there only one claim I'll need to support - avoid 'mom and dad are fantastic' that's two claims!

Give examples from p 78


Lesson 6

Boxes and bullets - elaborating a thesis

Elaborate thesis by discussing reasons for the claim

•   Thesis: Bikes are amazing

Practice on a whole class thesis:

Thesis: Recess should be one hour long each day

Start by repeating 'Recess should be one hour long each day because...'

Make sure the stem is repeated.

Extension see p89


Alternative ways to support thesis. We have reasons.


Lesson 7

Choosing mini-stories to support thesis

Building essay is like making a huge building:

Use bike story to back up idea. Choose one, recall story writing concepts then draft one.

Whole class example: Working with buddies is fun.

Choose 1, think of a story, write the point then start with 'for example' then 'write in the air' the story.


End of session - share stories to see if they fit inside of guidlines.


Lesson 8

Choosing mini-stories to support thesis from outside sources

We can get stories from each other to support our thesis.

Practice with the class essay: interview writing partner for their story to support one of the bullet points.

Practice writing one.

Collect a story for your thesis and write it!


Lesson 9

Making lists to support your essays

Sometimes instead of stories we collect lists of relevant examples.

Analyse MLK's Speech p139

Find a phrase to repeat and a stem idea to hook it to:

For example; With my buddy I get to...

or The buddies look up to us when...

Usually you use lists or a story. Try to find a bullet point from your thesis and construct lists to support.