Teaching Students How To Read and Mark the Essay Text


Find out how I teach my middle school students to read and mark the essay text.

In my middle school class I have many students who are very good readers.  They have good comprehension and good recall.  But their ability to read and mark a text for essay writing leaves something to be desired.  I have literally watched my brightest students read, re-read, and read the essay texts some more until the point where they have spent all their essay writing time on just that step.

So, I knew that it was time for some explicit instruction.  In order to read and mark a text efficiently and effectively there are a few things that must be done.

1.  There must be a thesis skeleton.  (Read more on that in this post.)

2.  Students need to cross out paragraphs that have irrelevant information related to the thesis skeleton.  This helps to prevent the temptation to start that re-reading cycle.

3.  Students need to highlight or underline any information relevant to the thesis skeleton.

How does this work?  Well, in my classroom I literally take a day and go through this with the students.  I put my text under the doc cam, read our thesis skeleton and then begin reading the text out loud to my students.  After I read a paragraph to them, I ask "Does this have any information in it for us to say [thesis]?"  Then I wait for responses.  We discuss the sentences to determine if they are relevant or irrelevant.  Then we all cross out the irrelevant and highlight the relevant.

This is a sample of what that might look like (taken from my digital informative essay unit):

While I recognize that this takes some class time (at least a day - maybe 2), I argue that it is time well spent.  I know that my class that was just for students learning English, did not understand how to critically read a text until we did this together in class. They told me so.  Sure, we had learned a process for analyzing text and they could determine whether information was relevant and reliable or not, but this was different because now they had to take it the "next level" (their words).

So, I sincerely recommend teaching this explicitly to your middle school class.  And if you'd like to use my video lessons, then please check out my digital informative and argumentative essay writing units that do just that:

If you are teaching middle school students how to write informative and argumentative essays and are short on time, try these easy-to-use, NO PREP, DIGITAL lessons with FOUR weeks of step-by-step VIDEO lessons, guided notes, texts, organizers and more!

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Thanks so much for stopping by! I hope to hear from you and will reply via e-mail. :)