This lesson plan demonstrates how to use Revision Assistant for a multi-day assignment that includes the entire writing and revision process. It uses this prompt on social networks, which can be accessed in the Revision Assistant Library.
Many people use social networks on a daily basis, including Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, but not everyone thinks that using them is a good idea. Some people think that social media is distracting, while others think that social networks connect users to new people and ideas.
Write a persuasive essay for your school newspaper in which you state your opinion on the benefits or drawbacks of social networks. Convince your audience, which may include other students, teachers, and parents, to agree with your position.
Students write to address the specific focus, content, organization, and style expectations for different modes of writing.
Students revise their writing.
Students acquire and apply the vocabulary of critical writing.
Students write for a wider audience.
Students practice processed writing for publication.
Students will develop content for an opinion/argumentative piece that distinguishes a claim from alternate or opposing claims; develop the claim and counterclaim fairly, supplying evidence for each while pointing out the strengths and limitations of both.
Ask students to keep of log of their use of social media for 24 hours to one week. What do they use? When? For how long? Why? Have them take particular note of what benefits they’re gaining from this activity, as well as the downsides. They should use this log throughout the lesson.
Ask students to consider whether social media is mostly helpful or mostly harmful. Have students who think it’s mostly helpful to move to one side of the room and students who think it’s mostly harmful to sit on the other side of the room. Students must choose a side. Give students two minutes to write down the reasons why they chose the side they did. Inform the students that they can switch sides at any time during the conversation, and they can move to the middle if they are wavering but not ready to choose a side. However, students in the middle cannot make arguments; they can only ask questions. Starting with the side with the fewest students on it, ask a student to give one reason for his or her choice. Then alternate one reason or rebuttal for each side at a time. As students move into the middle, invite them to ask questions of either side. End the moving conversation at your discretion, either after a pre-set amount of time or when you feel that the conversation is in danger of becoming repetitive or students have stopped listening to each other. Instruct those in the middle to finally choose a side.
Once students have decided on a stance on the issue, have them fold a sheet of paper in half length-wise. On the left side, have them write down what they consider to be the best two opposing claims from theirs. Then on the right side, they should write down what they consider to be the two best points for their claim. Ask them to write down why they hold the opinion that they do and how they would answer the best points made by those with a different opinion.
Have students find and bring in on the drafting day three sources on social media research that contain data that supports either a claim or a counter-claim that they just listed for themselves.
Review the prompt with students, discussing how claim and counter claim may fit into a focus and/or thesis statement. Also discuss audience and purpose for newspapers in general and op-ed pieces in particular.
Formulate with students a few different outlines of organizational patterns they might use for claim and counterclaim, as well as identify places where they might use anecdotal evidence from their social media logs or facts and statistics from their research.
Give students a few minutes to get started before circulating and checking with each one to see if they have any individual questions. TIP After circulating, I usually place a chair next to my desk, so students can come up and conference with me individually as needed.
Two students to sit side-by-side with a draft of the essay between them. The writer holds the pen or pencil while the peer reads the essay aloud to the writer. The writer marks up the draft any time he or she hears something that isn’t quite the way the writer wants it to be. The students then switch roles, with the writer reading aloud his or her peer’s essay. Circulate among the pairs. Point out to students when the paper isn’t flat on the table between them or the writer isn’t in a position to see and mark up the paper, just to reinforce the idea behind the activity. TIP I usually allow students to self-select partners, but I limit them to groups of 2-3, and generally students organize themselves with a minimum of fuss.
After the read-aloud, students may trade papers for silent editing. There are several options for silent editing.
Pre-evaluation by the Rubric. Have students grade the draft in its current form using the Revision Assistant rubric. You may have them either code parts of the essay that influenced their opinion positively or negatively or simply write directed comments after each domain. You may also have students give one another suggestions for revision.
Essay Labeling. Have students label the essential parts of the essay and use a plus (well done), check (passable), minus (deficient in some way), zero (missing an important element) system.
Checklist. If you have a particular outline in mind for students to follow, students may fill out the checklist without marking up the essay itself. TIP I often alternate yes/no (Is it in there?) items with items that ask students to evaluate the quality of what is there.
You can either have students input their drafts to Revision Assistant (RA) immediately or allow them the opportunity to make changes before doing so. Ask students to perform a signal check. They should write down how many bars are lit up for each trait. You can have students choose their weakest trait and revise until they one more bar is lit in that domain. (They can go with their own opinions if more than one domain is weak.) You can have them raise the bar for each trait that is not fully lit up. Consider challenging them try to reach a set number for one or more traits for aspects of their writing you want them to improve.
Have students print out a clean version of their essays and give them to a third-party to proofread. TIP I sometimes give students a short questionnaire to have the third party fill out in response to the piece with 2-3 items, like “What questions do you have for the writer after reading this?” or “What part of this piece would you like to know more about?” They should turn in their final copy with the proofread copy and questionnaire.
Give students a list of newspapers, magazines, and other publications and have them submit to at least one.
Do an issue or a process reflection. For an issue reflection, ask students to think about how their view of social media has changed. For the process reflection, ask students what it was like to develop the counterclaims or how working with RA was different from working with a peer. What did they learned about their writing? Consider offering both types and letting students choose which questions they want to respond to.
Written by Caty Dewalt, Upper St. Clair High School