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Rhetorical Awareness Activities for Emerging Writers

Rhetorical Awareness Activities for Emerging Writers

Rhetorical Awareness Activities for Emerging Writers

essaypop

essaypop

Jun 15, 2023

Jun 15, 2023

10 minutes

10 minutes

We’ve designed targeted writing lessons to incrementally familiarize younger writers with the fundamental elements of academic writing.

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Our objective is to support younger students "where they are" with just the right amount of scaffolding.

Sometimes at essaypop, we like to take you behind the scenes and show you the methods behind our methodological approach. The lessons and activities featured here are not only based on research about how younger students learn to write but are supported by our practical understandings as educators of the kind of support that younger students need to develop proficient, grade-level appropriate writing skills.

These activities are what we call rhetorical awareness activities, and they’re designed to familiarize younger writers with the fundamental elements of academic paragraphs and short essays in an incremental fashion. We want our students to be aware of the rhetorical components that make up academic writing, and we also want to be sure that we aren’t frustrating young writers by asking them to compose pieces of writing that their simply not prepared for. Additionally. To ensure this, we want to make sure the scaffolding is on point.

In these activities, students are presented with coherent, pre-written, academic paragraphs that feature components like claim, evidence, and analysis. However, when the students first see them, the components are mixed up and out of order. Their job is to place the sections into the appropriate essaypop writing frames, and when they have done this successfully, they are rewarded with the original, organized piece of writing.

By engaging in scaffolded activities like this regularly, students will begin to gain an understanding of the relationships among the components that make up paragraphs and essays and will start to internalize the roles that they play in good writing. What’s more, they learn these concepts at a strategically-designed and incremental pace.

Based on most states’ academic standards, students should begin supporting basic claims in their writing as early as second grade. They should progress into writing simple and then more sophisticated paragraphs in grades three and four. By grades four and five, they should be expanding their paragraphs and venturing into essay writing.

Let’s look at some examples of simple rhetorical awareness activities that prepare students for these objectives.

Example one: Expository Text

The first example has been differentiated into two versions, one for grades two and three and the other for grades four and five. During the 2/3 lesson, students are required to read a piece of expository writing about earthworms that is composed of a basic claim, followed by factual evidence and the writer’s analysis or explanation.

The catch is that these components are presented out of order and the students must put them back where they belong. Not a difficult task for an older student but younger ones will be challenged by reading and processing the paragraph parts and determining what role they play. Once the students have accomplished the task, then they head over to essaypop Hive and discuss with one another why they made the decisions they did.

For kids in grades four and five, we add a step; not only do they need to complete the task described above, but they must also compose a relevant hook and closer for the paragraph before sharing in the Hive. Having students add these components on their own requires a level of independence on their parts and provides them with a sense that the writing is their own. They’re also able to practice the kind of revision and elaboration they will do when they engage in unscaffolded writing.

Here's some detail of the activity modified for grades two and three

View the Grade 2/3 Activity

View the Grade 4/5 Activity

We believe this scaffolded approach to writing instruction provides emerging writers students with just the right amount of practice and support they need to gain mastery in a manner that is incremental and confidence-building. And, of course, the amount of scaffolding can be modified by the teacher.

Example Two: Targeting Counterclaim in an Argument Paragraph

In this next rhetorical awareness activity created for students in grades four and five, students are tasked with adding a counterargument and rebuttal to an existing argumentative paragraph that poses an opinion (again about earthworms). As in the previous activities, students are presented with an academically-written paragraph that has been subdivided into three components, claim, evidence, and analysis. And just as before, these components are presented out of order, and students must read the sections and then correct the sequence before moving including their own ideas into the mix.

The key to these activities is to target a set of skills, build scaffolding around them, then have students practice the skills until they’ve mastered them. This will not be the only time our students will engage in counterargument and rebuttal work; this type of activity may be repeated four or five times before we expect students to bring these components into their own unassisted writing. What’s reassuring is the students do learn the skills, and the activities can be completed rather quickly.

View the Activity in essaypop

Example Three: Targeting Narrative Writing Skills

In this third example, students write a short narrative. To begin, they are provided with the three possible expositions of a short story and they must complete the story by creating the rising action, climax, and resolution. Again, we believe that it’s important to include at least one component of the writing so that emerging writers who often lack confidence have something to give them traction within the process. And we can build many iterations of this approach – We can provide students with three possible climaxes or resolutions. We can insert a portion of the story’s rising action and have students compose around this.

View the Activity in essaypop

Keep in mind that in addition to scaffolding student writing by providing them with rhetorical components that target specific skills, students are also assisted by the help card content and sentence starters that are native to the essaypop platform. Additionally, when students complete the task, they head over to the social and interactive Hive environment to share their learning and understanding of the concepts being taught.

Summary

Our objective in the coming months is to build a comprehensive library of rhetorical awareness activities that are useful and appropriate for different grade levels beginning at grade two. These will be organized into engaging themes and mini units like the one below which focuses on the subject of earthworms. We like the science/ELA crossover possibilities here. Ideally, each mini-unit will allow students to engage in the four domains of writing – expository, argument, narrative, and response to literature.

We'll also begin building similar but more sophisticated rhetorical awareness activities for secondary students in middle school and high school as well. We’re hoping that teachers will begin modifying some of these activities and even start building lessons and units of their own.