One of the focus points this spring as we prepare for ISTEP is persuasive writing. For the seventh grade test-prep group I co-teach, this led me to develop a series of basketball-related essay prompts, one for each day this week. After I saw the first set of essays though, some without conclusions, and very few with strong conclusions, my co-teachers and I needed to get on our soapbox and reiterate those basics. Also helpful was the Fish Skeleton graphic organizer technique — that I picked up from someplace unknown during the time I substitute taught across Michigan and Indiana.
While working on these lesson plans, I also felt driven to review what I could find on the web about persuasive writing, since it’s been a while. I found some good advice, but what stood out to me was this article, “Blogging is the New Persuasive Essay,” by Shelley Wright. Wright makes a case against the persuasive essay, which I don’t fully agree with, but over the course of the post she makes an excellent argument for why we should have students blog. Not only can blogging bolster the sentence structure and grammatical skills that students need, but there is an element of playfulness to blogging that can be exciting and engaging for students. There is also the benefit of feedback, discussion, and debate that can occur through blog commenting. (The comments on Wright’s blog are equally interesting.)
When you have laptops in your classroom, consider the idea of blogging. Another idea is Edmodo, an academic social network, which is a different vehicle for writing, but is along the same lines of 21st Century communication skills. More on Edmodo will be discussed in another post soon to come.
[Side note: The fishbone technique apparently has an interesting history. As I searched the web for a sample diagram, I found this piece about Dr. Kaoru Ishikawa’s work developing this graphic organizer. What I use is a simpler version of the fish skeleton writing organizer, which is very easy to draw and explain on the whiteboard or on a student’s paper in just a few seconds (by rolling this out quickly, it gives them more time during the period for writing) and is very middle-school friendly and memorable.]