Focus On: Essay Unit Plan (10/11/10)

The next unit is about essay writing, which is a mandatory component of the EQAO Literacy Test that happens around March or April.  Having taught the essay to Grade 10 Applieds many times, I have come to accept that the majority of Grade 10 Applied students do not know how to a) plan an essay from scratch and b) create a finished essay that follows some standard writing principles.

Having said that, however, the principles of Differentiated Instruction say that I need to gather current data about my current students. So, to that end, on Tuesday, as we finish up our grammar unit, I will ask students to complete a short pre-unit test exploring their knowledge of essay terms and whether they can identify them in an actual sample essay.

I can probably predict that most of the students will require instruction in how to build an essay from scratch, yet their might be on student who has already learned how to write an essay and can demonstrate that learning. If that is the case, this student should not be made to re-learn the writing process — unless they choose that path.

And even though most of the students will require instruction in essay writing from the ground up, I can differentiate in a few areas as we go:

I can constantly assess to see if they are ‘getting’ concepts as we learn them. If someone has not learned a concept, then I can initiate some remediation to help that student ‘catch up’. If, however, some students are able to grasp these new concepts quickly, then I need to have some appropriately challenging material ready for them to help deepen or enrich their understanding of the new concepts, or to put their new understanding to the test, ahead of the summative assessment day. I can continue to implement some the ideas I discussed in a previous post.

Throughout the unit, I can attempt to offer ‘multiple entry points’ so students can interact with the learning in a way that engages them. This may be through a personal interest or by a learning preference. For example, when I am demonstrating the skill of brainstorming, I could have them brainstorm about a topic that I know, by way of their surveys, is meaningful to them. In addition, if I know the class is very tactile / kinesthetic, I can have the students learn about or practice a concept using hands-on materials.

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