Common Core Standards: ELA
10: Range of Writing: Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences.
There are two parts of this standard. The first is to have students prepare themselves for longer essays and writing projects, for which they will brainstorm, prewrite, write multiple drafts, conduct research, and edit their work until it is absolutely perfect – this is usually the kind of project that they will work on for a week or more. The second is to get them prepared to respond to timed writing prompts, which will have them thinking on their feet and writing their papers in an hour or less.
And no matter what kind of writing they are required to do and how much time they are given for it, students must not forget to focus on the following:
- What is the task? The basic rule to understand the writing task is a simple one, but one that sadly, is often skipped – and it is this: Read the prompt CAREFULLY. When some students are told that they are working within a time limit, they go into panic mode and cannot process written instructions very well. Believe us when we say there are teachers who asked for “a page on early-American poetry” and ended up with a poem on Armenian pottery.
- What is the purpose? Closely related to task, “purpose” asks students to consider what they hope to achieve with that particular writing piece. Do they want to argue that the Harry Potter series is the best piece of young adult literature written in the last fifty years? Their purpose would be to argue and convince their audience that their views have merit. Do they want to research the history of the mandrake root and mention its use in the Harry Potter series as one of their examples? In this case, their purpose would be to inform. Do they want to create a flier for the class play in which they will be acting out a scene from one of the Harry Potter novels? Their purpose would be to be noticeable, and to persuade their audience to come for the play. So, determining their purpose early on will help them to select and organize information accordingly
- Who is the audience? The audience for a piece is closely related to task and purpose. Who are their intended readers? Seven-year-olds who haven’t yet read a single Harry Potter book? Members of the Worldwide Harry Potter Fan Club? Their classmates? Students will have to recognize that their audience will affect their tone, language-choices, and the information they provide in their writing.
You can translate all this for your students by having them work on the following exercises.
1. All of us remember that sweet little balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet when the star-crossed couple sneaks around the back of Juliet’s crib, just above the orchard wall. It’s way past curfew, and Juliet’s family would kill Romeo, and we mean that literally, if he’s caught on the grounds. Juliet really shouldn’t be out wandering around in her nightgown either. You might ask your students to demonstrate their understanding of the scene by putting a modern spin on this Shakespearean masterpiece.
Now, all of the balcony scene would make terrific fodder for the Verona tabloids, right? So, take yourself out of… well, yourself… and become someone else. Let’s say you are a weekly columnist for the magazine, Verona Teen People, and your editor has gotten whiff of rumors about Romeo and Juliet spending time together on the sly. You, being the newshound you are, want to entertain your readers with a little gossip. Your task is to give them the scoop about what really happened on the balcony between the two. Instead of a script, you’ll be using a newsy-article format with a gossipy tone; instead of Shakespeare’s formal language, you’ll be using teenspeak, a little slang mixed in with modern English. Entertain your peers with the oh-so-naughty details of secret love (while keeping the language and details appropriate for young teen readers, of course.) You’ll be able to do this rather quickly, say one or two class periods, with just a copy of the scene dialogue and your laptop. Then, send your story off to your editor boss (your teacher) in time for the deadline.
2. Let’s suppose you’re asked to dig a little deeper into that same scene, to go beyond the way-too-fast promises and the making out between Romeo and Juliet, to explain why their meeting was so wrong and what the real consequences might have been if the young lovers had been caught by their parental units. We know what you’re thinking: We’ve all done THAT before. No big deal, right? Wrong. To understand the seriousness of their actions, you’re asked to figure out what society expected of young girls during the Elizabethan Age and write an essay about your findings. This, you rightly ponder, is going to take a little more than a class period to do.
Yes, you’ll have to do some research in the library or online to determine what society was like in England in the 1600s, what the hardcore gender roles were, and what restrictions were placed on young women during the time period. Once you’ve discovered that information, you’ll want to think about what those rules meant – specifically for Juliet. You’ll have to use what you’ve learned and apply it to this situation. There were very negative outcomes for disobedient young ladies. We learn, later in the play, what Juliet’s defiance will cost her if she doesn’t marry the man (Paris) she’s ordered to marry. No grounding for her. Her dad threatens to disown her, kick her out of the house, and leave her to starve to death. Ouch! To write this essay, you’ll want to go through the writing process: brainstorming ideas, taking notes from sources, outlining your major points and supporting details, writing the first draft, and revising to near-perfection.