Writing the claim. It’s the sentence we hype up, the “one sentence that holds the WHOLE PAPER TOGETHER!!!” No pressure, right?
Well the truth is, there IS a lot of pressure to get this sentence right and a lot of pressure on us to help students write them. My kids want a formula, which I give them, but only as a starting point. The strongest claims exist beyond the “three pronged claim” formula and getting kids to write better statements organically is a seemingly insurmountable task.
After covering your essay prompt and showing students what I call a “Below Basic” level claim on my rubric, encourage them to take the sample and take some risks trying to improve it. For our English 3 Unit 1 essay, I ask my students the essential question from the start of the year: What are American values and how do they shape identity? Students are charged to answer the question using a minimum of two sources from the readings that we covered in Unit 1. A Below Basic claim that I suggest as a starting place is as follows:
American values are ____________ and ____________ and they each shape identity
On our rubric, this claim (with the blanks filled in accurately) would equate to a “D”. For homework that night, students are asked to write their own claim. I show them how to play around with syntax, we talk about how they can elaborate on the “shaping of identity” piece of the claim, and so forth.
Padlet has recently changed over to a paid version (as of fall 2018), so if you’re using the free version, you can only use three padlets at a time. Don’t worry - when you finish with one padlet, you can delete it and keep using the service, but your total number of Padlets cannot exceed three (or what you already had before the service was switched over).
Think of Padlet as a giant magnetic whiteboard. Each student has a digital post-it note of sorts. When students have their claim drafts, I create a basic Padlet using the WALL format. All claims from all three of my junior classes gather together on one screen.
Next, I change the layout. First, I click on the three horizontal dots at the top right hand side of the screen and select “change layout” and choose SHELF. From here, I can build columns. I label each column with my rubric headings: Distinguished, Proficient, Basic, and Below Basic. It take about ten minutes, but I then sort out all of the claims into the column where I think they currently belong.
The next day in class, I sent the students back to the Padlet and we dug in! This week, I told them how I categorized the claims, but what I wish I would have had time for is having the students try to determine how the columns work. I’d like to see them write me a definition for each category and tell me “My claim is in the proficient category because….and in order to improve it, I need to….”. That’s an ideal scenario.
Regardless of the scenario, this gives students a lot to work with: authentic feedback, actual student writing to use as mentors, and a second shot before the actual paper begins to get their claims closer to their full potential.
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