This is a group essay unit in which students work in groups to write compositions. I usually use this assignment after we have finished a class novel. Typically, I provide a prompt for the essay, such as “What is the theme of (novel’s title here)?”
The reasons I offer a group essay are many. First, it allows the less skilled students to be swept up into the process of composition and really get to see how to do good writing. I always form the groups heterogeneously—meaning I pair good writers with struggling writers. In addition, this assignment produces one third as many essays for the instructor to grade—thus making it possible to offer more writing in the quarter. Finally, this promotes the skills necessary to work in an increasingly team-structured society.
The assignment sheet is simple; it lists the in-class and homework steps over five one-hour class days. The only thing you’ll need to provide is a prompt (see above). Give out the prompt on day one, collect the three-paragraph essays on day four, and collect the completed five-paragraph essays on day five. You can change the assignment and paragraph requirements to suit your needs.
About the three-paragraph essays—I don’t usually read them at all. I simply collect them (and mark them off as complete on a roster) to enforce the idea that everyone is responsible for writing, brainstorming, and producing one of the final essay’s three body paragraphs. If one student is singled out in the group rating (which I usually give as homework on day five—and then I collect it quickly so students don’t see what the others have written) then I will look at their three-paragraph essay to decide upon their grade.
Some key points:
•I tell students on day one that the body paragraph of their three paragraph essay must be one of the final five-paragraph essay’s three body paragraphs. It may, however, be altered by peer editing. This way everyone is responsible.
•I really emphasize the importance of peer editing in class on days two, three, and four. This is the chance for the stronger writers to help the weaker writers contribute. If they don’t do this, the whole essay, and everyone’s grade, will suffer.
•I let students know that everyone in the group shares the final grade so everyone must work as a team.
In this unit you will find the following documents:
•The assignment hand out
•A peer editing guide
•A guide to writing essays
•A basic essay rules handout
•A rubric for grading essays (alter it to work with your point scale)
•A group rating sheet in which student rate one another’s performance in the project