Overview

In this project-based instruction activity, students build a toolkit of essential essay-writing skills through reading, dissecting, and analyzing a short story text. The project consists of four classes with tool-building activities, and a final, fifth class in which students use their toolkit to write an essay related to the concepts presented in the short story.

  • In Class 1, students create character sketches based on a single character in the short story. They also write a reflective piece based on their character sketch.
  • In Class 2, students find ...
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In this project-based instruction activity, students build a toolkit of essential essay-writing skills through reading, dissecting, and analyzing a short story text. The project consists of four classes with tool-building activities, and a final, fifth class in which students use their toolkit to write an essay related to the concepts presented in the short story.

  • In Class 1, students create character sketches based on a single character in the short story. They also write a reflective piece based on their character sketch.
  • In Class 2, students find and annotate quotes from the short story text to support the arguments/opinions presented in their character sketches from Class 1.
  • In Class 3, students use their quotes from Class 2 and analyze them for literary techniques and devices, and once again integrate these quotes into their character sketches. At the same time, students also generate analytical questions based on the story and literary devices present in the text.
  • In Class 4, students discuss their analytical questions as a class and answer them collaboratively. They also consolidate the information they learned in Classes 1-3 as preparation for writing their final essay in Class 5.

 

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Objectives

  • For students to be able to write an analytical essay on characterization as it relates to realism.
  • For students to recognize the relevance of literature to everyday life and current issues in society.

Context and requirements

Level CEGEP
Discipline English
Course ERW 101 (Effective Reading and Writing)
Activity Content PBL; toolkit
Technological Requirements Boards on which all students can write
Best Use Practice

Author’s Notes

Benefits

  • Scaffolding – using 4 classes to build students’ ability to write a final essay in class 5 is helpful as it allows students to have both a clear goal for each class and to see how all of their knowledge can come together in a final project. It allows them to clearly see the connections between the concepts being covered across classes within the unit.
  • Different activities each class cater to different learning styles and maintain student engagement throughout the unit.
  • The issue covered in this story (domestic abuse) pushes students to reflect on its presence in current society.

Challenges

  • Because classes are linked, and not self-contained, students can have difficulty catching up if they miss a class during the unit.
  • Some students may have a difficult time with some of the social issues/topics presented; instructor must be sensitive to this and address these issues carefully.

Tips

  • Telling students that their work will be graded for 2 out of the 4 classes, but not telling them which ones, encourages them to come to every class.
  • If the chosen work covers a sensitive social topic, it is useful to send out an email to students and bring the issue up in class before starting with the unit. This allows students who may be triggered by the topic to speak to the instructor beforehand and make arrangements for alternative assignments. 
  • Breaking down the short story into sections over a period of classes gives students smaller reading workloads that feel more achievable as homework;
  • Group buddy system: students must change groups throughout the semester, but they can bring along one person, a ‘buddy’, from their previous group to their new group. This makes changing groups less stressful for students.

Activity Pedagogical Components

Discuss

The warm-up exercises ensure that students have completed the pre-class readings and that they understand the concepts that will be covered in class through the activities.

Project

The project consists of various activities that cater to different learning styles. These activities are scaffolded so that they build into each other and progressively provide students with a toolkit for essay writing.

Consolidate

The instructor takes time to address any misconceptions that arise during the project activities and to also consolidate all the information covered during the project.

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