Happy New Year! The return from winter break in January offers the perfect backdrop to get students thinking about their academic and personal goals for the year. I love to take the time to challenge my students to think about their work so far and where they hope to be by the end of the school year. I like to begin the year with a New Year’s resolution essay writing unit where we work on goal-setting and resolve to do things that will help us to be an even better version of ourselves.
There are plenty of unique ways to teach essay writing, but I have found success with the BING BANG BONGO essay template. You can follow the process I use with this free essay writing printable featured below. Click on the image to download the the PDF.
For the brainstorm segment, I start the writing assignment by discussing commercials students have noticed on TV. Typically they will confirm they have seen lots of commercials for gym memberships and weight-loss companies. I ask them why they think these are so “in your face this time of year?” and they always respond that “with the new year comes people setting goals to become better.”
From there we create a brainstorm cloud where students list ways they could improve upon themselves. Some examples are: practicing harder, putting more effort into school work, listening more to a parent, being more responsible, etc. Depending on what suggestions you receive, it can also be good to explain the difference between setting a goal versus achieving a dream.
Next I have the students decided on the three goals they want to work on. Those get added to their brainstorm organizer and we then move on to writing.
Sometimes it is best for teachers to share examples of their own topic sentences first, so students understand how to begin organizing their writing. I usually model my own resolutions in front of the class so we can go through the thought process together. My three goals for this project were: saving more money, being less quick-tempered, and saying only respectful things about others.
Once you established topic sentences, show students how your BING paragraph (in my case) would be all about saving money, my BANG paragraph would be all about being less quick-tempered, and my BONGO paragraph would be all about saying only respectful things about others.
Students always LOVE to hear the stories behind my resolutions and you’ll never face a shortage of suggestions to help you achieve your resolutions!
In addition to having three strategies, I require each paragraph to include an opening sentence-introducing the resolution and a concluding sentence-bringing the paragraph to a close.
On the second day I like to review our previous instruction and get to work on our introductions and conclusions. Some teachers may find this strategy backwards, but I have found it can be tricky for students to find a place to begin. With each of their body paragraphs completed, students have a better grasp of how they need to grab the reader’s attention, and then bring the work to a close.
I often use the example of crime and drama shows when discussing the introductory paragraph. Often the writers open the show with a shocking image or event to grab the audience’s attention and keep them glued to the show. This is the same type of statement we want to make with the first sentences in our resolution essay.
For the conclusions I share how we are bringing the piece to a close and sending the reader on their way. This is NOT the time to share new information, but instead give the reader the chance to reflect on what we have shared. At this point the students will have completed their organizers and are ready for the first draft of their resolution essay.
As part of the review process, I typically have a writing conference with each student. The focus here is: mechanics-CUPS-capitalization, usage/grammar, punctuation, spelling. We also discuss organization and the use of transitions in their sentences. Here an example editing chart, which is included in the free essay writing PDF from above.
After all edits are in place, students re-write their final drafts and publish them on their Chromebooks or display them in the classroom. Not everyone will be interested in sharing their resolutions, so choose which format makes the most sense for your group.
Essay writing is a skill that students can learn in the middle grades and will carry with them through college. Sadly, this wasn’t a skill I learned until high school, but with common core standards, writing extensive/elaborate pieces is now a requirement of our students at all levels, specifically in the middle grades.
For this reason, I created this Resolutions Made Easy writing resource. I wanted to help my students construct a thorough essay that required them to write 5-paragraphs effectively and successfully, taking the students through the brainstorm, drafting, editing, and publishing stages.
It takes my students about 5-6-class periods to complete the entire process, depending on how quickly they are able to type their papers. It may take your students more or less time.
If you are looking for more writing activities and resources, be sure to check out my ELA resources for a variety of inexpensive, print-and-go ideas!