Coming up with the best essay topics to close out a nonfiction reading can be more daunting for the teacher than the essay is for the student. With high school just around the corner, instructors have limited time to build effective writing skills to focus on common core standards and higher levels of Bloom's Taxonomy.
Principles of Essay Writing
Middle school essays rely on a style of writing that sets boundaries and assists flow. The typical essay includes an introduction that states the argument, key details with supportive evidence separated by paragraphs, and a conclusion that summarizes the essay. Grammar and spelling are a given, and middle school students need to focus on capturing interest with a strong opening sentence and maintaining a logical flow of information to keep from losing the reader.
Biographies - Argument or Opinion
Biographies are inspirational texts about people who changed the course of history. An enormous wealth of possibility exists when it comes to planning an essay. One way to relate students to the text is to have them determine the individual's motivation, then identify the points in the life that created and solidified their drive towards greatness. For example, you could have students ask and answer questions, such as what drove John F. Kennedy towards politics? Direct the student to describe his motivations in becoming president of the United States and his stance in politics.
Historical Time Periods - Narrative
From wars scattered through history to the struggles of pioneers, or perhaps just a glimpse at life in a different time period, all history is rich with wondrous elements. The effect is easily lost with indifference, but can be enriched with a creative activity. Have students write a narrative from the perspective of a person, real or imagined, in history. It can be a letter or journal entry, but include several facts of the time period and thoughts on a particular event. For example, have students write a letter home from the perspective of a person who just moved to early New York to work in the factories. In the lesson, include information about differences in city life, working conditions and home life.
Identifying Bias - Informative or Explanatory
Much of the news is written to inspire a reaction from the readers, be it positive or negative. When posed with a series of articles related to the same subject, it's a simpler task for students to separate fact from fiction. In these instances, have students identify rhetorical techniques and their purposes. For example, students can write an essay that explains the author's intended purpose of this article and what methods she uses. Be sure to include reasoning for your answer.
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