Revision Olympics for the [Dreaded] Essay

Maybe you’ve assigned an in-class essay assessment where students are required to write a four or five paragraph essay exhibiting their understanding and analysis of a text.  Writing under pressure and within a short time span (two 40 minute class periods), the results are mediocre.

I feel that I do not have enough time in the class period or in the school year to do everything that I want to and have to cover in my classroom.

Right now, I am doing all that I can to support my students as writers and give them the tools necessary to succeed in school on written assessments. In order to help my students understand the elements of an effective essay and to boost their writing for future writing assessment, I created a Revision Olympics Activity for students to reflect on their writing, look at models of proficient essays, and improve their writing for clarity, focus, and evidence effectively supporting the claim.

Below, I will walk through the different challenges of the olympic activity and at the bottom of this post I included a link to all of the challenges and handouts created for my students.

Challenge #1 – Student Exemplars & Self Reflection

Students read through two student exemplar essays and addressed the following:

What did the student writer do well in the essay?

What would you want to model/borrow/steal from his or her essay?

What is one thing you are going to do differently as a result of reading this student’s essay?

Challenge #2 – Building Better Intro Paragraphs

Students reread their own introductory paragraphs and addressed whether it included an engaging broad statement to capture the audience’s attention, linking information with text titles and authors, and a clear thesis statement that states the claim (and so what) in one clear cut sentence.

Challenge #3 Finding & Supporting Your Claims: Textual Evidence

Working in small groups, students worked as an investigative team to determine whether the evidence provided in their own essays supported their claim.  First, students were to find all the evidence provided in the essay and compile it into a graphic organizer. Second, students had to explain how each piece of evidence supported the claim. If other members of the team disagree with the explanations, the student was to find evidence that would convince them. Lastly, students were to record what the author was trying to prove with the example or evidence and why it mattered.

Once students completed the three challenges they were to revise their original essay.  The revised writing that I got in return was detailed, clear, concise, and effectively met the requirements of the writing prompt.

Here is a link to the handouts and challenge directions to use with your students.

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