My students have been working hard on their writing this year. We are currently perfecting our skills in the area of expository writing. As we head into Black History Month, as well as our upcoming Alamo unit, we’ve been reading and learning about people that are considered heroes. We have had great conversations about traits that a hero embodies, and began identifying heroes in our own lives. We have explored ideas such as empathy, courage, belief, truths, strength, love, peace, and wisdom. We have read about people, we have listened to songs with hidden lyrical references (U2’s Pride), and we have had very deep conversations on how other people can have such powerful impacts on the world, and on each other. We then looked inward and considered our own unique “hero” traits and possibilities!
My students were then asked to write about a person they consider a hero, in expository form.
We revised and edited as we went along this past week, learning about different strategies such as: beginning with a quote, powerful conclusions, creative transitions, and voice. We also continue working on our conventions (our weakest area) and supporting details. Now that they have published their final Hero Expository Writing, my students are ready for our next Teach Like A Pirate experience:
The 4th Grade Epic Hero Expository Writing Battle!
For this experience I will use several hooks. I’m wearing camo tomorrow to kick off this unit. I will have this battle music playing as they enter the room 🙂
The room will be divided into East vs. West, and gear (essays, rubrics, highlighters) will be distributed. Gold coins will be given to each victor as we go through the battle phases. After much thinking, looking for ideas, discussing possibilities with my twitter PLN, and consulting with my Army veteran son, I am (finally) prepared to share our upcoming experience. Feel free to use this in any way you see fit!
The Mission/Prompt: “Write About Someone You Consider a Hero”
The day you’ve trained for all year is upon us. All of your learning about what traits embody a hero has come down to this. The class has been divided into 2 brigades-The East vs The West. Each of you will be assigned to a brigade. Within those brigades, you will be deployed to one of three battalions. You will determine your names. Choose wisely, as the winner’s camp will be bestowed the honor of being our First Epic Expository Writing victors!
Armed with our Hero Expository Essays, and persuasive skills, essays will battle head to head for victory in each category on our writing rubric. You will not battle your own paper, but rather, one that fate has thrown your way! Be advised: You must collaborate and be able to JUSTIFY the awarding of each battle victory based on merit and skill-citing our rubric as evidence of victory. Let it be noted that throughout the battles, a paper will never cross paths with it’s original writer.
Phase 1: Preparation for Battle
Papers have been collected and divided among two brigades. Now, 3 Battalions (4 students each) will be deployed through each brigade. You will become experts on the papers you hold, scoring each paper on EACH SECTION of our writing rubric. Papers will engage in one-on-one combat for the victory in each category. These battles will determine the victors in each of 6 categories on our rubric:
- Content & Critical Thinking
- Introductions & Conclusions
- Topic Sentences & Details
- Voice and Word Choice
Note: It is possible for a paper to win multiple battles; however, a stronger brigade will be formed if each paper in each battalion can secure at least one victory.
Once each battalion has declared a winner for each of 6 categories, these papers will now battle against the 2 other battalions. You will come together with the other battalions at this point. You must be an expert on your winners and the rubric, and be able to justify each paper on merit. You must also be able to listen to the reasons behind other selections. At this point it is no longer about battalion winners—you want to find Brigade Winners.
At the end of each battle, the Brigade will emerge with 6 battle winners, one for each rubric section.
Phase 2: In phase 2 of this mission, the two brigades will go head to head as they each defend and justify papers. Focus on the skill each paper represents in each writing strand using our rubric. You must provide justification both verbally and in writing for each paper you are defending. You are now battling for overall writing effectiveness-skill in each category.
Phase 3: We will celebrate as an “army of writers” our victors in all categories, as well as the overall winning papers. You will have justified and decided upon 6 overall winners. From here we will enter the Ultimate Battle: As a class, we will now enter a round-robin tournament, pour over these 6 papers and rubrics, and determine 4 Epic Battle Winners. These 4 will demonstrate skill in all of the writing rubric categories. They will be bestowed the honor of being named an:
Epic Hero Expository Writer.
As such, these 4 victors will be spotlighted on our upcoming Standard Based Bulletin Board. Selected by the class for their skill and merit, you as classmates will have chosen our SBBB spotlighted work, and written justification defending each paper that meets the standard for expository writing. These will be the commentaries that will be posted next to each victor on the board, so write a compelling and thorough justifications!
Phase 4: Personal Battle Reflections:
1) How did this activity challenge your critical thinking skills?
2) What did you learn about the craft of writing as a result of this activity?
3) What new goals will you now set for your own writing?
At the end of this battle, you will each be epic heroes–battle-tested and eager for the next quest. In a most honorable of fashion, we will celebrate, reflect, and set further goals.
Good Luck To You All-Let The Battles Begin!
Pictures courtesy of:
Sheila. quill.jpg. June 2009. Pics4Learning. 2 Feb 2014 <http://pics.tech4learning.com>
Keeney, Carolyn. shield.jpg. 1-Apr. Pics4Learning. 2 Feb 2014 <http://pics.tech4learning.com>