I slump down at the table in the middle of my academic coaches’ room. I wasn’t just exhausted from the day, I was already exhausted in anticipation of today’s team meeting. Today wasn’t just about our upcoming plans for next week (which I still needed to do!) or a new professional development goal we need to add to our year-long growth plans. It was about Responding to Text writing. More specifically, what we, as third-grade teachers, were expected to do when it came to this new shift in writing instruction. Aghhh... I knew I should have brought coffee…
The Responding to Text Switch
When Common Core came to Florida in 2012 most teachers scrambled to find resources for reading and math. It wasn’t until Florida decided to switch over to Florida Standard (Common Core’s doppelganger) and adopted a new high-stakes test: FSA, that teachers really started wondering about their writing curriculum. Gone were the days of prompt writing where students relied only on their background knowledge and teacher-taught tools to write an essay.
Fast forward to 2017 and now students are expected to not only read and comprehend 2-3 articles but, also comb through them for evidence as they write about the texts. From there, students are expected to answer a document-based question using evidence found in the paragraphs they read.
Seems simple enough, right?
Not exactly, see the thing that most districts forgot when adopting this new type of writing was one of the most important pieces of the puzzle:
Hello?! Where are teachers going to find grade-level appropriate texts for students to practice with? What about those evidence based terms? What about appropriate responding to text prompts? Unfortunately, this new writing style adoption came with a lot of expectations and assumptions and very little guidance. Talk about coffee-need inducing stress!
As a third grade teacher, I felt these exact stressors just sitting in my coaches’ office. My team was filled with blank stares and searching glances. We weren’t getting out of this and we had no idea where to begin. This wasn’t just some fancy new term for the same old writing game. This was a completely different very complex AND TESTED writing system!
Luckily, a love for writing floated me down the Responding to Text writing river. I worked to find interesting and relevant passages for my students to read. I wrote prompts that not only asked students to consider the evidence presented but use it and cite it in their responses. Although I had dabbled in this style writing when I taught second grade, I worked to grow it up, formalize it. By the end, I had a pretty solid routine in place and my students weren’t completely dying of boredom. #teacherwinning
But, I was exhausted! And to think I thought I needed coffee at my team meeting all those months prior? Ph-sha! I needed a double Venti with three shots of espresso everyday Sunday night! Planning writing activities every week took so much work! From finding articles, creating prompts, drafting rubrics and then there was that little *teaching it* part. I knew that I couldn’t be the only one THIS exhausted from only planning one subject (with 5 others still to go!) Please tell me I’m not the only one?!
The Birth of Responding to Text Expository Writing Unit
Turns out I wasn’t! (PTL ‘cuz that would have been pretty embarrassing!) All the teachers I talked too had the same issues with finding text and finding a routine! Their number one complaint? It took too much time and was difficult to guide students to completion. This wasn’t just my issue, but a teachers’ everywhere issue! So, when fellow writing lover, Kelley Dolling from Teacher Idea Factory and I started talking about our frustrations with the lack of curriculum for this type of writing process, I knew this sassy writing coach was my dream come true! She was going to help me bring this system to the masses! And boy, we’ve worked our patooties off so you, fellow teachers, would no longer have too!
For almost six months, my girl Kelley and I have been working hard! Apparently, I’m a slave driver! LOL! We’ve worked countless hours planning, writing, revising, rewriting, and revising again to make this Responding to Text: Expository Writing Unit exactly what you need to teach this style of writing in a meaningful and engaging way. We worked to take the guess work out and took care of all the hard parts! This unit isn’t just a unit, but a six-week curriculum designed for 3rd through 5th-grade teachers who are expected to do responding to text in their classrooms but have no idea where to begin. Or, understand the process but are tired of spending countless hours combing through resources for only one week’s worth of lessons.
A Peek Inside Responding to Text: Expository Writing Unit
So here’s a quick look at what the amazingly talented Kelley and I have been working on (for soooo long!) for you!
Six Weeks of Lesson Plans
So, writing lesson plans is hard enough, but add in that you’re not *quite* sure what you want to do, or should do, or can do when it comes to writing… and it’s next to impossible! There’s a reason I’d always wait until 8 pm on Sunday evening to start lesson planning! To make planning your writing for the week easy-peasy, we’ve included six weeks’ worth of lesson plans. Each day takes you step by step on what to do, when to do it, and what you’ll need! No guessing. No worrying. It’s all there written out and ready to go.
Six Weeks of Mini Lessons
This comprehensive unit also contains six weeks of mini-lessons that are planned perfectly for each week! Use them to inspire your students to better their writings. Each lesson is designed to build on the previous week.
-SNOTS Note Taking Skills
-Strong Word Choice
Each mini-lesson focuses on building a stronger responding to text essay. Each lesson also includes games and partner activities! An engaged student is a learning student.
Mini-lesson also includes tip sheets or reference pages for your students to use throughout their writing time. Students can glue it in a writing notebook or place in their writing folder for safe keeping. Brownie points if they pull it out on their own to reference!
Six Sets of Paired Passages
No more endless hours of searching for paired passages! One of the most challenging parts of planning responding to text activities is finding quality (and grade level appropriate) articles. Kelley and I spent hours writing and (rewriting) articles that matched common science and social studies topics, but were also interesting for students to read. Each week your students will read a set of related topic passages and use these passages as launching points for their essays.
Planning Space/Brainstorm Sheets
This expository writing unit is designed to take students through the writing process. Each set of paired passages includes a planning/brainstorming sheet that guides students through notetaking and organizing their thoughts. The sheets also prompt students to write exact quotes and page numbers, so students can refer back to their sheet easily when citing evidence in their response.
Rough Draft Sheets
After organizing their thoughts and notes, students work on a rough draft of their writing. Modeling a well-organized essay is important so, for the first few lessons, we’ve also included a framed response sheet to scaffold students’ writing. Eventually, this gives way to completely independent rough draft sheets.
From there, students work on their final drafts of their responding to text essay. Also, included in this unit are suggestions for editing.
Student Writing Booklet
Is there anything worse than gearing up for a lesson and realizing you’ve forgotten to print out a sheet or a few sheets for the class? Kelley and I hate this too, so we organized all the student sheets into one Student Writing Booklet. This streamlines the prep process. Just print enough copies for your students of the student booklet. All your articles, prompts, rubrics, planning sheet, rough draft and final draft pages are there. Print them double sided to save paper. No more wondering what happened to all your lined paper or if you remembered to print that day’s papers. It’s all there!
One of the hardest parts writing is that actual grading. Not because teachers don’t love reading their students’ essays, but more because it’s hard to know what to look for everytime you read. Included in this pack are self-checking rubrics for your students to use as they edit and for you to use when you grade. No guess work in what should have been included in the final writing. Or questions as to what you’re grading. It’s all there!
To help keep everything together and organized, we’ve also included a teacher binder.
This binder is the ‘safe house’ for all your master copies of lessons, student booklets, and planning sheets! It is divided into weekly lesson sections so grabbing what you need week after week is simple!
With so much of our testing moving to the computer, students NEED to practice reading, drafting and writing on technology. This resource fits that need! Kelley ( I can take NO CREDIT for this portion except as digital classroom cheerleader!) worked to convert all the student writing booklets into digital classroom ready resources!
Kelley wanted to make this portion as user-friendly as possible so she even included instructions on how to get started using the digital components of this pack! I speak for all third through fifth-grade classrooms when I say THANK YOU, KELLEY!
Snag it For Yourself
Know you’re ready to just have this entire unit for yourself? Click here or the picture below to purchase this unit in my TpT Store.
Try a Week
Overall, this unit contains over 250 pages of responding to text tools just for you! We’re so excited for you to try this six-week curriculum, we’re even giving you a week to try it for yourself! Click the image below to sign up for our Responding to Text newsletter and receive a one week sample!
In addition to a week’s worth of Responding to Text lesson plans, you’ll also be alerted as to when units for persuasive, narrative, and compare and contrast writing are complete! (Yeah, we’ve got three more coming!)
Now to get started on these other units! Good thing this exhausted teacher brewed some extra coffee…
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Filed Under: writingTagged With: expository writing, responding to text, writing instruction
‘What changes Eiie from the devout believer he is at the start of the text to the spiritually empty person he becomes?’ The memoir 'Night’ written by Elie Weisel, chronicles the tragedy faced by the three million victims of the Holocaust. it is a period when many struggled to maintain their faith in God after being repeatedly subjected to dehumanization by the Nazis. The protagonist, Eliezer, is one such example. Eliezer grew up attesting that everything on Earth is a symbol of God’s supremacy. His belief dictated that God is everywhere, all the time, and that his very existence is a favor of God’s divinity. However, Eliezer’s faith in God is profoundly shaken by the brutality and malevolence he witnesses at the concentration camps and decides that he would not believe in a God who would allow such suffering. His devotion is similarly disrupted by the cruelty and selfishness that he notices in his fellow prisoners and himself. These examples are reinforced by a number of literary devices (rhetorical questions, imagery, metaphor and biblical allusions) which further engineer the impact of Eliezer's experiences during the war on the reader and help create a stronger message. When Eliezer arrives at Birkenau, a nazi concentration camp, he finally figures the extent of the horrors which surround them and start to doubt his unconditional trust on God’s existence. Upon seeing the crematoriums and furnace pits in which babies are being burnt alive, he exclaims rhetorically ”why should I bless his name...what had I to thank him for,” informing the reader of his anger towards God’s silence to such inhumanity and as a result, stirring sympathy. Similarly, the hanging of the young ’pipel' later on in the text represents the death of God and Eliezer’s own innocence. According to Eliezer “[God’s] hanging here on this gallows," the metaphor being that God cannot exist in a world where an innocent child can be murdered. Weisel effectively employs this metaphor in order to demonstrate to the audience the injustice faced by the Jews as well as Eliezer’s low point in faith. Throughout the text, Weisel utilizes many biblical allusions in order to manifest the idea of God’s betrayal to Eliezer’s former 'blind’ faith and the Jewish race which he supposedly blessed. According to Jewish tradition, Rosh Hashanah is a special day on which Jews pass before God like cattle as he determines who will live and who will die in the coming year. While many ofthe other Jews at the concentration camp celebrate the day, Eliezer refuses to do so as a symbol of rebellion against God’s silence, demonstrating his anger and disbelief at Him to the reader by rhetorically asking "praised be Thy Holy name, for having chosen us to be slaughtered on Thine altar?” As a marked act of disgust towards God, Eliezer no longer fasts or carries out religious duties which used to be central to him before the holocaust. He explains that he ”no longer accepts God’s silence,” indicating that he has given up hope on God’s intervention. Soon after Rosh Hashanah, the prisoners must go through a selection test run organized by the cruel Nazi doctor Mengele, which ultimately decides who is condemned to death and who is to live based on their health conditions. Here, Weisel hints that a terrible reversal of the biblical story has taken place; the Nazis have taken God’s position. This emphasizes to the viewer that Eliezer has accepted that the Nazi’s actions towards the Jews means that God has deserted them, and thus praying or praising his name is foolish and irrelevant to survival. Eliezer’s spiritual struggle is not only owed to God’s refusal to intervene but also by being witness to the cruelty that the fellow prisoners inflict on each other. After being exposed to the harsh nature of camplife, Eliezer learns of the evils that exist within people and even within him — a fact which contradicts his earlier belief that wherever God exist, goodness must exist. Furthermore, Night demonstrates that cruelty breeds cruelty, where during difficult times instead of comforting each other, prisoners turn against the other. An example is Eliezer himself who instead of comforting his father after he is beaten by the Kapo, feels anger at him for not ”avoiding Idek’s wrath.” This suggests that Eliezer is struggling to maintain the compassion and basic goodness towards people that his God commands and therefore ’forgetting’ him. Eliezer is also upset by the fact that despite the Kapos being Jews themselves they enjoy inflicting pain on the others and hence refers to them as ”functionaries of death.” This use of imagery indicates the way cruelty breeds cruelty in its victims during the Holocaust, turning people against each other, as self-preservation becomes the highest priority. Given this, Eliezer finds it hard to continue believing in a religion which is meant to but does not bolster morality in its people when it is most necessary. Being a Victim ofthe Holocaust, Eliezer’s plight in the concentration camp represents a period of time where he struggles with the idea that God exists given the ‘silence’ he maintained during the war. Throughout the memoir, the author Weisel, undertakes the use of several literary devices (rhetorical questions, imagery, metaphor and biblical allusions) which works to further persuade the reader of the atrocities committed by the Nazis as well as to highlight Eliezer’s feelings about certain issues. As a young boy, Eliezer is a very devout follower of the Jewish faith but due to the unfortunate circumstances he faces at the camp, he becomes somewhat spiritually empty. One of the biggest reasons that he provides is that God is not present when they need him. For example; allowing the crematoriums to run and the Nazis to continue with their horrible deeds like the selection rounds and the murder of the pipel. Another reason is the selfishness he sees in his fellow inmates and himself which to an extent, reject biblical teachings.