- Boundary Markers: An Alternative to Classroom Management - March 10, 2016
- International Mother Language Day-February 21st - February 25, 2016
- "Dear Future Me..."A Great Reflection Assignment for Students - February 1, 2016
- Thank You In Advance: The Power of Expectation - January 15, 2016
- Under the Guise of Inclusion - November 20, 2015
- Therapy Dogs and Schools - October 15, 2015
- SUPERPOWER Schools - October 13, 2015
- When Life Happens While You Teach - September 22, 2015
- "I'm Her Favorite Student!" - August 31, 2015
- Good Writing vs. Great Writing: Leading the Way - April 27, 2015
As a secondary English teacher, I teach many pieces of academic enrichments within my curriculum, but my main passion tends to fall at the feet of writing. When I began teaching middle school English a handful of years ago, writing was barely a blip on the radar as we had so much pressure to pass a certain percentage of students in state assessments, of which writing wasn't a focus that came up very often. Nonetheless, I felt strongly that good writers made for accomplished citizens and I sought to teach it and teach it well. This is where the "Rainbow Essay" emerged and this is where my phrase, "Rainbow it up!" came into play. Hello, my name is Mindy, and I'm going to help you to become a better writer! Let's rainbow it up!
A "Rainbow Essay" is a color-coded system that gives the writer a way to check their work for errors (see below). Although this pattern does not allow for every venue of writing, it's a great, basic way to show students that there is a way to keep their writing in check. As a non-traditional college student in my late thirties, many rules and laws for the English Language had long since traveled along its merry way when it came to recall exactly what they were, that's why I was so glad when my American Lit professor made us color-code our rough drafts before we turned in a final essay. For the first time in my life, the pattern of the almighty essay made sense. Blue was the thesis/theme, yellow was the topic sentence and everything below the topic sentence had to match it with much more detail, etc....it was all finally making sense. "Brilliant," I thought! When I'm a teacher, I'll never teach a writing project without it!"
I begin in class with a very simple five-paragraph essay (introductory/thesis paragraph, three detailed paragraphs in the body and a conclusion) that I found online about a dog named Romeo. I've modified it a bit, but basically it's the same premise. I make sure I mention the theme, thesis, topic sentence, and eye-catchy sentence, etc., to keep the language the same throughout the year when referring to details of an essay. I also like to color code my topic sentences in yellow, so it allows the student to see if the details of the paragraph match up to the topic sentence, which should also be mentioned in the introductory paragraph. First, I put the color-coded version on the overhead and I hand out a non-colored sheet of the same essay to each student. I ask my students to pull out their colored pencils and I have them follow the pattern of colors, highlighting the sentences as per the example. I do not at this point tell them what the colors mean, I simply ask them to color. When we next meet, I then ask them to pull out their "Rainbow Essays" and we start breaking down the details. I point out that "Mr. Green Paragraph" has some problems as it forgets to mention that Romeo is beautiful and easy to care for in the topic sentence, and again in the conclusion, being proud of Romeo is straying a bit off-topic from him being beautiful and easy to care for. It's so much fun to see the light bulbs of understanding go off. Sometimes it happens immediately, other times it takes all year, but it does almost always happen for each student as they ultimately say, "Oh, I get it!"
Rainbow Essays have since become a staple in my room; I never start the year (no matter how experienced the writers in my class) without teaching what I call "The Rainbow Essay." It is a very simplistic view of writing, but it keeps to the basics, allowing for more freedom within all skills of writing while keeping the student-organized and on task. Many teachers have their own style of teaching writing skills, but for me, the rainbow method is by far my favorite. Throughout the year, whenever we begin a new essay, I always have them pull out their Rainbow Essay, and I always make them turn in a rainbow rough draft to keep them on track. My students now know when I say, "Pull out your Rainbow Essay," or "Rainbow it up!" that it's time to check our patterns and check for mistakes. Hello, My name is Mindy, and I hoped that I have helped you to become a better writer!
Five-Paragraph Essay Model
Paragraph 1: Introduction
Paragraph 2: Detail #1
Paragraph 3: Example #2
Paragraph 4: Example #3
Paragraph 5: Conclusion
My Dog, Romeo
My dog, Romeo, is the best pet anyone could have. He is beautiful and easy to care for. Playing with him is lots of fun.He always takes care of me. There isn’t a better pet anywhere.
Romeo is a beautiful tricolor Sheltie. He is mostly black with white and a bit of brown. Caring for him is easy because I simply have to make sure he has fresh water and food every day. I exercise him by throwing his toys. Romeo is a good pet because he is nice looking and doesn’t require much care.
Romeo is lots of fun to play with. He loves to play catch. He follows me around the house with a toy and drops it on my foot so I will kick it. He can catch just about anything, but his favorite is chasing a Frisbee. I really have fun playing with Romeo.
Romeo takes care of me. He always follows me when I leave a room. When I am sitting on the couch he plops down right beside me. When we are outside in the woods he always makes sure that I keep up with the rest of the family. He always watches out for me.
As you can see, Romeo is a great pet. I am proud of him and he doesn’t need much care. Playing with him is always enjoyable. He watches over me and keeps me safe. Romeo is absolutely the best pet that anyone could ever have!
*Remember that after you have your ideas down in this format, you can make your writing stronger by combining sentences, varying sentence structure, and using a thesaurus to find synonyms to keep your vocabulary interesting!
Written collaboratively with 4th grade students about Mrs. Barnard's dog, Romeo.
Mrs. Barnard's Classroom Launcher.
Contact Paula Barnard at Pioneer Elementary School, Arlington Public Schools, Arlington, WA, USA
Updated 09/22/2010 http://www2.asd.wednet.edu/pioneer/barnard/wri/essay_model.htm