Monday, May 19, 2014

Literary Essay

The students are hard at work on literary essays as part of our author study. They meet daily in their author groups and think through their ideas as they write these essays. We have been using as an exemplar an essay composed by two English majors of the highest quality (that's Mrs. Rencher and Mr. Merritt!!) about author Jacqueline Woodson and her books Each Kindness and The Other Side. We have been emphasizing with the kids the structure of the literary essay, the importance of a strong thesis statement, the use of evidence through quotations from the text, and the best techniques for summarizing the plot and the scene. As teachers, it has been amazing to observe and to support the kids as they learn to compose this essay. Writing a strong literary essay requires high levels of thinking. We will continue this week on the most difficult part of the essay: the conclusion. We look forward to sharing the final products at the 4th Grade Learning Celebration!

Read our class essay that the students used for guidance and inspiration:

Standing Strong in Jacqueline Woodson's Books

It is very difficult to find the strength to stand up for what you believe to be morally right when the group of people around you is choosing to stick together and be unkind. Newbery winning author, Jacqueline Woodson, writes about this tough issue in her books. The Other Side tells the story of Clover befriending a girl who all the other girls were ignoring because of her differences.  Each Kindness deals with Chloe’s regrets for remaining part of the group and not following her heart. A closer look at these books can lead the reader to examine how individuals must make important choices in life that will impact themselves and others.

Finding the strength to make the right choice is an important part of The Other Side. In the story, Clover sees a pretty white girl on the other side of the fence. Clover’s mama and her friend Sandra tell her that she should not cross the fence. When Clover finally meets Annie, who is sitting on the fence, she struggles to find the strength to sit with Annie because all of her friends have told her to stay away. Even when Clover does find the strength to sit with Annie, she worries about what Sandra and the other girls think when she says to herself: “And when Sandra and them looked at me funny, I just made believe I didn’t care” (22). Sitting on the fence with Annie teaches Clover that even when you make the right choice, it can be uncomfortable because of what others think.

In Each Kindness, Chloe is filled with regret for rejecting Maya, the new girl, despite Maya’s many attempts to be friendly. Ms. Albert, the girls’ teacher, dropped a pebble in a bowl and shared with their class that kindness is like the ripples going out into the world. Chloe is especially sad that she will never be able to make things right with Maya since Maya and her family have moved away. Chloe walks to a pond after school one afternoon: “When I reached the pond, my throat filled with all the things I wished I would have said to Maya. Each kindness I had never shown” (18). Chloe found the strength to stand up for what she believed was right, but it was too late, and she will never forget that lesson.

As Jacqueline Woodson shows in her books, it is very difficult to find the strength to stand up for what you believe to be morally right when the group of people around you is choosing to stick together and be unkind. In The Other Side, Clover is a great example of how, even though it might be uncomfortable and hard when you are making the right decision, you will be proud of yourself for doing the right thing. Also, you will be a leader who encourages others to take a close look at their own choices and actions.  Chloe, in Each Kindness, is a great example of how sometimes you have to live with your choices and you can never make things right. She found the inner strength to be kind to Maya, but it was too late. Reading these books will forever make the readers think about how they treat outsiders. Hopefully, Jacqueline Woodson’s powerful books will send a ripple of kindness out into the world.