By this point in our novel study, students should have completed the first official section of Bradbury's novel, "The Hearth and the Salamander". They also began working on filling out the Conformity vs Individuality T-Chart that allowed them to begin making some connections and taking notes on specific parts of the text that support this one theme out of many in the novel. By introducing this graphic organizer at the midpoint in them reading the first section, I planted the seed for them to focus their thinking a bit as they finished the second half of their reading assignment. Some of the students have already added notes to what they completed in class as they finished Reading Assignment 2.
When students enter class, I ask them to take out these notes and add to them based on what they read in RA 2. I give them the first 5 minutes of class to complete this task as best they can. During this time, I go through the room and stamp completed homework in the Novel booklet, which was to answer the comprehension questions for RA 2. I do my stamping during this time because I want to be sure that all students are held accountable for their efforts, and I do not want to stamp while they are more fully and formally engaged in later steps of the writing process, which could be perceived as distracting to some.
After the students have had time to complete their graphic organizer looking at specific textual evidence for the theme Conformity vs. Individuality, I ask for another example to add to each side of the T-Chart. This again acts to support struggling students, and also to reinforce efforts and understandings of students who do not appear to be struggling.
After this brief sharing of information, I let them know what their task is for the remainder of the class period. I share with them that they will be writing a 4 paragraph essay about the theme they have been working on so far. Some of them express confusion and surprise about it being 4 paragraphs instead of what they have come to understand as being the "norm": 5. I share with them that this particular set up, where they are addressing two concepts at odds with one another, it provides a natural flow for a 4 paragraph essay. I also share with them on the SmartBoard what each paragraph should contain before I let them begin.
As they are writing, I circulate and provide feedback for the students as necessary. I find that I get much better results when I am able to give feedback as they are working on a first draft than when they have to wait to receive it after the draft is complete. I make sure that my feedback is concise and focused on concepts and ideas that will give the students the "biggest bang for their buck". Specifically speaking, I try to focus my attention on areas of greatest need for that particular student as best I can. Perhaps he or she is struggling with the thesis/claim, and therefore will continue to struggle throughout, or perhaps the struggle is related to introducing evidence. Whatever it is, the key struggle being addressed early on will lead to the most growth and improvement, and it will build confidence in the students. This increased confidence will help to make the rest of the writing process more effective and meaningful.