Our FIRST Expository Essays-In 12 Minutes

Just like in years past, I begin our expository unit with explaining the difference between narrative and expository with my “Grandma” page.  You can read more about that here.

After we grasp what an expository piece should be, I ask students to write a 12-minute essay (Gretchen does it in 11 minutes) based on a picture and a truism.  We use the same truism each year to begin because it deals with pets…and most students have SOME sort of experience with pets.

Truism: Pets can be a big part of a family.

I give students about a minute to think about that statement.  Then we begin: 2 minutes to describe what that statement means to us, 3 minutes to tell how it is true in a tv show or movie they have watched, 3 minutes to tell how it is true in a book they have read, 3 minutes to tell how it is true in their own lives or someone they know, and then 1 minute to tell what it makes them think or wonder.

And just like that…in 12 minutes…they wrote their very first expository essay.  I explain that due to the things they wrote, they have explained something…they didn’t tell a story.

Students are always so proud after finishing.  They count their words and the room begins to buzz with excitement.  It’s pretty awesome.

If you want to try this with your kids, you can find the truisms here.  You can use any of them that you like. I use several throughout the year.  The one about pets isn’t too far down.

Curious what they wrote?  Click here to read a sampling from my kiddos.

I couldn’t be more proud.  :)

If you have time…leave them a little note to let them know what you think.  Yeah…they read this.  :)

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More 11-Minute Essays (In 10 Minutes)

Last year I blogged about our 11-minute essays inspired by the one and only: Gretchen Bernabei.  My kids loved it SO much, and it really helped them see that they could write A LOT in a very short amount of time.

So…it’s only fitting that I carry on the tradition this year, too.  I used the same truism picture as I did with my kids for the first time last year.  You can download a copy (FREE!) of 70 pictures with truisms…in English AND Spanish…by clicking here.  We used #11: Pets can be a big part of a family.

Because 4th graders don’t have the knowledge or experiences of most kids in junior high (which is what Gretchen teaches), I modified her 11-minute essay to fit their needs.

HERE ARE 4 SAMPLES FROM OUR FIRST ATTEMPT AT A 10 MINUTE ESSAY.  Remember: They have not been revised…it’s just a quick 10 minute piece of writing!  😉

Step #1: Talk to students about truisms. (These are the sentences under the pictures.)  Truisms are statements that are generally true in most situations.  Even if it isn’t true for you, there are many other people in the world who agree with a truism.

Step #2: Once you’ve chosen the truism you want your kids to write about, project it on the board.  Tell them to look at it and begin to think about what it says.  Their job will be to tell you how they know this is true.

Step #3: Give students 2 minutes to write only about the truism itself.  They should give information about the truism, or they may simply copy the truism.  When time gets to about 15 seconds, tell students to wrap up what they are saying.  As the timer goes off, tell them to finish the sentence where they are, and remember to put a punctuation mark at the end.

Step #4:  Tell students to drop down to the next line and indent for the next paragraph.  Give students 3 minutes to write about how this is true in their own life or in a book they have read.  I like to let them know when they have 2 minutes, 1 minute, and 30 seconds left.  Repeat the wrap up warning and punctuation reminder when time is up.

Step #5: Tell students to drop down to the next line and indent for the next paragraph.  Give students 3 minutes to write about how this is true in a movie or a TV show they have watched.  Repeat warnings and reminders.

Step #6: Tell students to drop down to the next line for the last paragraph.  Give students 2 minutes to write about what this makes them think or wonder.

Step #7: Have students count their words and write the number at the top and circle it.

And there you have it…a 10 minute expository essay!

What does this do for your kids?  Well…lots of things.  For one, it helps them to see that it doesn’t take TWO WHOLE WEEKS to produce a nice piece of writing.  Yeah…some kids will write more for you in that 10 minutes than they’ve written…EVER!  Gotta love that!

It gives them some practice with writing an expository piece.  And even though they may not have realized it as they were going, they are writing from a text structure: Truism –> How it’s true in my life/book –> How it’s true in a movie/TV show –> This makes me think…

This activity helps them to build confidence in themselves.

How many words did you just write in 10 minutes?  Over 100?  WHAT?  Yeah…that’s a pretty cool feeling.  And the more you do it…the more they write.  It becomes a competition within themselves to see how many more words they can write each time.  And inevitably, a class competition to see who can write the MOST words of all!  :)

But most importantly, the kids enjoy it and have fun with it.  And that’s what writing is all about, right?!?!

 

Have you ever used this activity with your kids?  If so, I would LOVE to hear about it.  How is it similar?  Different?  Leave a comment below to let everyone know how this works in YOUR classroom!

If you ever have any questions, please feel free to leave them in the comments or email me or find me on Facebook and message me.  I love hearing from you!

Until next time…

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