While this is the third lesson plan in my unit, it actually comes before the lesson plan modeling "effective literature." Within the first days of the unit it is important that students understand that a lot of research has been done, documenting the importance of reading to children. They quickly see that studying children's literature is not frivolous.
Using the websites listed in the bibliography, I assign students in pairs to locate not only information at these sites but also other information they may find pertaining to the value of reading to children. It is, however, the articles from these sites that I ask students in groups of threes and fours to read aloud and to hi-light what seems most important. Each group is responsible for a different article. Once they have hi-lighted and agreed on the salient points, I challenge them to make a poster that will sell these points to the rest of their classmates and to anyone else they can pull in with their sales pitch.
This activity is very engaging, largely because it has a hands-on art component, and it is a winning way to start the unit. There is no art teacher in my program so, I always build art into each unit I write. You may remember that my unit ends with a student art project as well, writing and illustrating a children's storybook.
Once the posters are completed, each group is expected to present it along with the salient points they found in their article. For example, one group will research the article "When Should I Start Reading to My Child?" Another group will research "Important Things to Know About Reading to Your Child." Another group will research the article "How to Help Your Child Become a Better Reader." There is an article on how to choose appropriate storybooks and another on how reading to children helps boost their skills.
When the groups make their presentations, students are expected to take notes on the main points each group makes. Each article should have a color code so that later when students are using these notes in their five-paragraph essay, they will easily know which article the notes came from. Once this activity has been completed and the posters decorate the room, students will be challenged to come up with categories for all of their notes. This involves the entire class coming up with categories such as: Why read to children? When to read to children? How to read to children?
Next they will take their notes and try to put them into the categories they have agreed upon as a class. This is an excellent opportunity for the students to use three graphic organizers for their three categories. It is important for them to keep track with color- coding where their evidence comes from, so that when they write their essay, they will give appropriate credit to the article.
Just as in the five-paragraph formula essay in lesson plan II, students will have to craft a thesis from the assignment they have been given. They will need to craft three controlling ideas from the three categories they agreed upon, such as for the category When to begin reading to children: "It is never too early to begin reading and to continue reading to children." After they have crafted their three controlling ideas, each of these will become a topic sentence for paragraphs two, three, and four. . .the support paragraphs. The color-coded notes they have recorded on the right side of the graphic organizers will serve as their evidence to support each of the three topic sentences. Thus, there is no need to panic about the structure or the content of the essay.
At last students are ready to write their fifth paragraph, the conclusion of the essay. I always advise students, when mastering the basic five-paragraph formula, to look at their introductory paragraph when they are preparing to write their conclusion. I refer to the first sentence in the conclusion as the shadow-thesis and to the following three sentences as the shadow-controlling ideas because they relate back to the introductory paragraph. The conclusion has the same number of sentences as the introductory paragraph.
This formula essay writing activity is very basic but it has been demonstrated to me that most students never learned this bare bones five-paragraph formula and simply spray their words and sentences rather than craft them.