Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Main Idea and Supporting Evidence

This idea was pinned from a blog called The Lesson Plan Diva.  I'm always looking for ideas to help students with essay writing.  Almost to a student, it is the thing that they fear most about English class.  So how can we as teachers increase student confidence?  This idea for a main idea coffee table is great because it can be adapted for different levels- very basic expository essay to more complex critical/analytic essay- and it engages those visual and kinesthetic kids in the class.

(Image credit: http://www.lessonplandiva.com/2012/01/there-is-lot-of-learning-going-on.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed:+TheLessonPlanDiva+(The+Lesson+Plan+Diva))

The basic idea is to show kids that the supporting ideas are just that- support for the main idea that you are trying to get across.  All to often, kids write an essay that ends up being just plot summary.  Their "supporting ideas" are actually things that happened in the text, not points to support a main idea.  It can be difficult for kids to have that "aha" moment where they realize the difference between the two.  This coffee table activity requires kids to plan the structure of the essay in advance, and it can also act as a visual guide to see how strong the supporting evidence that they have chosen is.  Does this piece of evidence really support the main idea that I have written on the top of my coffee table?  Or is it merely something that happened in my text?  If it is the latter, I should remove the leg and see that my argument needs more support, quite literally in this case, if it is going to stand up.

Food for thought... what do your students struggle with when it comes to essay writing?  What are the best tips and tricks that you have found to address these challenges?  

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