Can fourth graders write five paragraph essays? I believe they can if they are given a large amount of support and if they are shown a process that is easy to follow. I’ve tried several strategies, but by far the easiest one I have utilized that also provided the best results was the A-B-C method. In an earlier post titled The Causes of the American Revolution I detailed the process of analyzing the prompt, brainstorming, and categorizing the information.
Once students had their three-columned organizer in front of them it was only a matter of treating each column as a paragraph. Students began crafting their own sentences from the information we had collected together in the brainstorming session. Once student got down to the business of writing it was at times very quiet as minds were at work and at other times the noise was deafening as students talked to each other and to me about their papers. Yes, I won’t lie…..there were a few who constantly had to be redirected and once I took a seat among the kids I had to move a couple closer to me to keep them on task, but overall they did a fantastic job.
Here are three examples of my students’ work. Notice that each essay begins with a question that they had to craft for themselves. The main idea sentence was given to them in the framework as well as the remainder of the introduction paragraph. The first sentence of each detail paragraph was also given to them to keep the students within the parameters of a five paragraph essay. Parts of the ending were also provided. Some may think I gave away too much in my framework for students, however, it needs to be remembered that this was their first opportunity to write a paper like this, and many had never written anything longer than 10 sentences before. The framework gave them something to hold onto in order to get their ideas on paper about the details. The details….the causes and how each student interpreted them was my main goal in this process. Anything else was simpy gravy.
The first essay I want to share with you is from a student who was born in Ghana. It was interesting to see his interpretation of events:
How did our country come to be? The United States began because of the American Revolution. The causes of the American Revolution are the French and Indian War, taxes, and the colonies were ready to govern themselves.
The first cause of the war was the French and Indian War. Colonists were crowded, and they wanted to move to the Ohio River Valley. The Proclamation of 1763 said they couldn’t.
The second cause of the war was taxes. Parliament made the colonist pay the Stamp tax, a tax on any printed item. The Sugar Act included many items that were taxed. The Intolerable Act was passed after the Boston Tea Party as punishment for the people of Boston. The colonist said, “No taxation without representation!”
The third cause of the war was colonists were ready to govern themselves. The colonists had been there foro a very long time and they thought they could make their own law and didn’t need a king.
The American Revolution happened for many different reasons. They three main causes were the French and Indian War, taxes, and the colonists were ready to govern themselves. I’m glad the American Revolution happened because I don’t want to be a British man.
The second essay is from one of my top students. His essay was our school submission for fourth grade in a writing competition that will go on to the county level and state level. This is the third year one of my students has submitted work in this contest.
Do you know about the American Revolution? Our country began because of the American Revolution. The causes of the war were the French and Indian War, taxes, and the colonies were ready to govern themselves
The first cause of the war was the French and Indian War. It was a war fought over the Ohio River Valley. It was a battle between the French and British. Many Indians were allies of the French. The British won, however, the colonists were mad because they didn’t get to live in the Ohio River Valley.
The second cause of the war was the taxes Parliament made the colonists pay. The names of the taxes were the Sugar tax, Stamp tax, Townshend taxes, and then the Intolerable Acts were passed. A group of people named the Sons of Liberty did not like this. Finally, war broke out between the colonists and the British. The first battle was called Lexington and Concord. The colonists won this battle.
The third cause of the war was colonists were ready to govern themselves. Britain had been controlling the colonies for a long time. They were ready for independence. They fought many battles for this and the colonist finally got independence.
The American Revolution happened for many different reasons. The main causes were the French and Indian War, taxes, and the colonies were ready for to govern themselves. I’m glad the American Revolution happened because if it didn’t happen I wouldn’t be alive.
The final essay is from a young man who is extremely intelligent, but has many problems at home. He likes to pout and many days ends up rolling around on my floor. I generally ignore the behavior and eventually he gets back into his seat and begins the assignment. I’m careful to only give him attention when he is doing what he needs to. There were times during the process of completing these essays that I didn’t think I would get a final product from this young man. When the assistant principal asked me to display a few of our essays in the front hall of the school I made sure this young man’s essay was one of them.
Do you know about the American Revolution? Our country started because of the American Revolution. The causes of the war were the French and Indian War, taxes, and, the colonies were ready to govern themselves.
It started from the French and Indian War when colonists were crowded and wanted to move to the Ohio River Valley. The French were already there. The British won. The colonists could not live in the Ohio River Valley. Then taxes were passed to pay for the war and colonists were not happy.
The colonists had to pay taxes like the Sugar and Stamp Act. The colonists did not like the taxes. They formed a group called the Sons of Liberty. Next, the Boston Massacre happened and five people died. The Boston Massacre happened when colonists threw stuff at the British soldiers and the British fired. The Boston Tea Party happened when colonists threw tea into the sea.
Many people who study history know about independence. Many colonists had their own government and didn’t need Parliament. James Otis made a famous statement when he said, “No taxation without representation.”
The American Revolution happened for many different reasons. The three main reasons were the French and Indian War, taxes, and the colonists were ready to govern themselves. I’m glad the American Revolution happened because the colonists got their way.
His last line cracks me up because part of his problem is he always wants his way.
This kind of work from students is not easy. It takes several days of deliberate intent on my part and mostly on the students. They got tired, they got bored working with the piece of writing over and over, but I kept telling that they all needed to persist. They would have a great feeling of accomplishment when they had completed the entire assignment, and they did. A few weeks later when I asked my language arts students to complete a persuasive essay regarding why someone would want to read The BFG by Roald Dahl, a read aloud that had been completed, I reminded them about th process of the American Revolution essay and told students to write in the same manner. This time I didn’t given a framework other than an opening sentence. They saw their original persistance paid off because many said to me, “Gee, this is pretty easy!”