Te Kete Ipurangi Navigation:

Te Kete Ipurangi

Te Kete Ipurangi user options:

English Online. Every child literate - a shared responsibility.
Ministry of Education.

Notes on teaching response to text essays

Sample Approach for following the SRSD* steps for Response to Text essay to Year 9/10 students. [5 lessons]

* Self-Regulated Strategy Development approach to teaching writing strategies developed by Steve Graham and Karen Harris.

NB: It is assumed that you have already done the teaching of the text and the aspects of the text that you want students to write about prior to this point.

Lesson One: Develop Background Knowledge, Discuss strategy

Set the context for student learning:

Tell the students they are going to be learning a new trick/strategy to help them write response to text essays. Tell them this trick/strategy has been proven to improve the writing of students of all abilities. Explain that you are interested in them learning the strategy and how they apply it in their own essays. Explain that you are also interested in what they think of the strategy and how the strategy might be improved to be even better.

Develop the strategy and self-regulation

Step One: Develop Background Knowledge (of the writing purpose)

Check that they know what a response to text essay is e.g. “A response to text essay is an essay where you write about a particular aspect of a text that you have studied and show your knowledge and understanding of this aspect and why it is important or interesting.”

You may also want to check what they think about their ability to write such essays. Have they done this type of essay before? How did they go? What do they remember about this type of essay?

This could be done as a whole class or in groups or pairs. Think about what approach would involve the students the most. You may want to do a combination i.e. groups discuss these questions first then share group ideas to the rest of the class.

It is important to address any negative ideas/beliefs students may have about essay writing. Project a positive belief about the benefits learning this strategy will have on their essay writing e.g. “A lot of you have said that you don’t like essays and that you’re no good at them. I just want you to know that I’ve taught this strategy several (lots of) times before and the students in my classes really notice how it improves their essays.” Basically, project the idea that the trick/strategy really works and will make a difference to the quality of their essays and how easy they find writing the essay.

Link to prior knowledge:

You may want to ask the students what they know about essay writing and other types of essays that may link to this type of writing – make links between this type of essay and how it is similar or different to formal writing, opinion essays etc.

Describe and discuss what makes a good response to text essay - e.g. a good response to text essay:

  • has a clear introduction that lets the reader know what text they are writing about and how they are going to address the topic/question in their essay.
  • focuses on the one aspect that the question/topic is asking them to write about
  • makes two or three points about this aspect
  • contains specific details, quotes or references from the text to support each point
  • makes clear statements explaining how each point/example links back to the topic and addresses the question

Explain purpose of the essay skill that they are developing

Talk about when you would write this type of essay and why learning how to write this type of essay is important or useful (try to go beyond just needing it for exams!)

Tell the students that they will learn a trick for remembering what to put in their introductions and in each of the main paragraphs in their essays.

Step Two: Introduce TAKO & SEXY (SEEL, PEEL etc…)

Show students a couple of examples of a response to text essay introduction e.g.

“In the novel Hatchet by Gary Paulsen an important character is Brian. Brian is important because he develops the key ideas in the book of courage and perseverance.”

“An interesting character in Gary Paulsen’s novel, Hatchet, is Brian. Brian is interesting because of the ways in which he changes from the beginning of the novel to the end. By the end of the book he has changed from an average city boy with no outdoors skills into someone who has learned how to survive in the woods.”

Go through the examples with the students exploring what each of the introductions includes. Ask them if they can identify the parts in the introductions that the examples have in common (NB: could be done as a whole class or in groups or pairs before sharing together). Students will probably come up with a range of points – put them on the board and students/class decide on the one that they like. If students don’t come up with it themselves you can write up T.A.K.O. Title, Author, Key words from question, Outline of points/ideas.

Go through together how each part of the mnemonic links to what is in a good introduction. Ask if students are happy with the mnemonic and if they would change it in anyway? If so let them – make the mnemonic something they have ownership of! Just ensure that it does include the elements you want to emphasise.

Now introduce SEXY

Reveal the mnemonic for paragraphs in a response to text essay. Say, “Let’s look at the parts that make up a good paragraph in a response to text essay.” Go over each part of SEXY, describing what each part is and what it does - e.g.

S: the Statement at the start of the paragraph that says what point/idea this paragraph is making, focusing on.

E: the Explanation that explains how this statement is relevant to the text and/or question.

X: the eXample(s) from the text that support(s) your statement and develop(s) your point.

Y: explain whY this example/point is relevant to the question/topic.

“One reason why Brian is important is because he shows us the key idea of perseverance. Brian had to learn many new things that took him many attempts to get right. An example of when he had to show perseverance was when he tried to start a fire and it took him many attempts to get it to work. To begin with he didn’t know what to do but when he realised a rock he found produced sparks when it was struck he tried and tried again until he got a fire going. This was important because if Brian had not persevered in trying to light a fire then he would not have been able to keep warm at night or to cook the meat he needed to eat to survive.”

Read through the paragraph together. Say that this paragraph is a good example and does everything that you would expect in a good paragraph at this level.

Go through and annotate, locate, each part of the mnemonic in the paragraph. Talk aloud as you do e.g. “The first think I’m looking for is a statement that says what the paragraph is going to be about. The statement is usually at the start and makes a point. Does this first statement make a point? I think so, it says one reason why Brian is important and states it as a fact – so that’s my statement. I’ll colour that red.” Go through in a similar way for the whole paragraph.

NB: Talking aloud like this – asking yourself the questions and saying what it is you are looking for and what that is – is important because you are modelling the self-talk you want the students to be doing and to learn.

Ask the students if they agree that the mnemonic works, is there anything else they think is in the essay that the mnemonic misses, can they think of a different mnemonic or extra part of it that they could add that will do the job better?

Step Three: Find parts in an essay – whole class

Tell the students that they will read an essay to find out if the writer used all of the parts of TAKO and SEXY in their introductions and paragraphs. Display the mnemonics clearly so that the students can see it, refer to it. You could give a cue card with the mnemonic to each group or have it on an OHT or on the board etc.

Read through another example that students have copies of. Ask them to raise their hands when they hear each aspect of the mnemonic(s). In this way you can discuss with the students which words or phrases the writer uses that alert you as a reader that s/he has included each aspect.

Step Four: Practise TAKO, SEXY

Practice the mnemonic – test the students on what the letters are and stand for. They should be able to write it down correctly by themselves. If not allow them to look at the cue card reminder etc and try again.

Step Five: Find parts in another essay- group work

Hand out another essay(s) to small groups and ask students to go through and identify each aspect of the mnemonics. Colour them in different colours, underline them in different ways, … For students you can do this very quickly you may like to give them the additional challenge of identifying the key words or phrases that the writer uses that signal each part of the mnemonic as it comes along.

NB: Important to give out examples that do have the elements in them – you are, afterall, trying to get them to see that this mnemonic is useful and that it works!

You can go through these steps several times over several lessons to reinforce the mnemonics and their relevance and to help students memorise it and to be able to identify each aspect of the mnemonic confidently.

Lesson Two – Modelling, Memorising, Self-statements

Set the context for student learning

Test to see if the students remember TAKO and SEXY. Also review the purpose of a response to text essay – what is it and when and why we do it. Ask the students to write down the mnemonics and then to see if they can remember what the mnemonic stands for. NB –it is essential that all students have memorised the mnemonic. If some students are having difficulty with this then spend a few minutes on it and give them the opportunity to learn and memorise it.

Develop the strategy and self-regulation

Step One: Revisit finding essay parts

You may wish to go through another example of an essay and ask students to identify the parts of the essay referring to the mnemonic. If some students are having trouble finding the essay parts you may need to go through this with them a couple more times.

Step Two: Model the strategy

Lay out a copy of the TAKO, SEXY mnemonic as well as a sample question like one that the students will be responding to (like one of the ones from the previous day). Say “Remember that the first letter of is T. I need to know what the title of my text is that I’m going to be writing about. I know that I’m going to be writing on Hatchet. Next is A for author. I remember that the author is Gary Paulsen. That’s good I know who the author is and what the title is. Next is K – which stands for Key words of the Question. So now I need to look at the question and identify what the key words are. What are the key words? There are two main types of key words in a question like this. Firstly, are what I call the ‘action’ words – the words that are telling me what I have to do. If I look in this question I see that in this instance they are ‘Describe’ and ‘Explain’. These are the words telling me what to do. Cool, now I know that those are the two main things I have to do? But what do I write about? This is where the other words in the question are important. The next set of the words are the ones that indicate what I’m writing about. So in this question I can see that I have to write about an important character and WHY the character is important. Ok, so that is two things I have to do – identify an important character and think of some reasons why they are important. I’ll have to think about that one. I should check my notes on characters to see why the character is important. OK, so now I’ve identified the key words of the question the next part of the mnemonic is O which stands for Outline – so now I have to think for a bit and come up with an outline or plan of what I want to write about so I can put it in my introduction. I will check my notes about the character and might discuss the ideas with others or the teacher to see if I have good points about why the character is important.”

You will likely want to stop and get the students to work on their own TAKO introductions at this point and to do some planning and thinking of points in the Outline part of the mnemonic.

The modelling of your ‘self-talk’ is very important. This is what allows the students to understand the cognitive decisions that you are making and the metacognition that you are going through as you make decisions. It allows them to listen to the questions that you use to support you in going through the steps of the mnemonic and how you have to interpret or use the key word reminders that the mnemonic provides.

If you are not comfortable to talk ‘on the spot’ about your paragraph making you could basically write yourself a script – like the one I have up here – that you would learn or have with you to remind you of the points and steps you go through.

Step Three: Self-statements

Ask the students if they can remember 1) things you said to yourself to get started, 2) things you said while you worked, 3) things you said to yourself when you’d finished.

Ask the students to write some things they could say to themselves on a self-statements sheet:

  • What to say to get started; this should be along the same lines as “What do I have to do? I have to write an essay using TAKO and SEXY”. Be sure the students use their own words.
  • Things to say while working; self-evaluation, coping, self-reinforcement, and any others in the students’ own words e.g. “Have I got all parts of my mnemonic?; I should check my mnemonic if I don’t know what to do next; Good, now I’ve done that part I move on to the next part; That looks like a good TAKO; I can check this with my neighbour to make sure I’ve done everything I should do” etc
  • Things to say to themselves when they have finished to review their work - said in their own words.
  • Note that the students don’t always have to think these things aloud; once they learn them, they can think them in their heads or whisper to themselves.

Lesson Three – Modelling, Memorising, Self-Statements

As above but with the SEXY part of the mnemonic not the TAKO part

Go through the same steps and processes for the second aspect of the mnemonic as you did for the introduction and planning part.

Examples of some of the self-talk and self-regulation points you should cover in the SEXY paragraph modelling lesson are:

[a] Questions to orient you to the task e.g.

“What do I need to do in a good response to text essay?”

“What is the question asking me to do here?”

“What did I say I was going to cover in my introduction”

“What order should I point my points in?”

“What do I have to put in a SEXY paragraph?”

[b] Questions or Statements to help manage or self-regulate the writer during the writing of the essay e.g.

“What does the mnemonic say I should be doing next?”

“I should look back at my mnemonic sheet to make sure that I have covered everything in there”

“Can I think of a better or another example to support my point?”

“Does that make sense? Would a reader know what I mean here?”

“Have I used words from the question in my answer?”

“How can I use different words that mean the same things because I’ve used that word too many times?”

“Am I paying enough attention to the task/question?”

“Is there a better way of wording this point?”

“How can I link my point back to the question/topic?”

“Do my points link well together? Do they create an overall ‘argument’ or flow to my essay?”

[c] Statements about managing self e.g.

“What should I be doing next?”

“How can I check that I’m on the right track?”

“I think I’m doing a good job at following the mnemonic”

“I need to stay focused on the mnemonic because that will help my essay be better”

“I could ask my neighbour to help me keep on track and focused”

“What is my goal for this lesson/task?”

“Am I on track to achieve my goal?”

“What would my teacher think of my essay at this point?”

“Am I happy that I’ve done the best I can on this section?”

Lesson Four - Support

Set the context for student learning

Test to see that the students know TAKO & SEXY (SEEL…). Do this aloud to save time. It is essential that each student has memorised these mnemonics. If students are struggling spend more time on memorising games, techniques, tests of the mnemonic and what it means. You may wish to remind students of what this type of essay is and what a good response to text essay does also how it is the same or different to other types of essays and writing that they do or have done before. Link to prior learning and orient to the purpose of this writing. Link to goals that the students may have formed for their own learning based on previous formative feedback etc.

Develop the strategy and self-regulation

Step One: Collaborative Writing – Support It

In this lesson you can do two things. Either you collaboratively write a TAKO and/or SEXY paragraph together with the whole class OR you get them to work in groups to do this aspect.

The important thing, again, is that the students are gradually being scaffolded into being able to self-regulate their own construction of these aspects of the essay.

If you are leading it try to get the students to do the work as much as possible with some prompts or questions from you using your self-statements to elicit student focus and ensure that they are using the mnemonics well.

If you get the students to work in groups you should structure it so that:

  1. They have to write the mnemonic down first together
  2. That they write down and share their self-statements as a group
  3. Give them an essay prompt to work with that would be in the similar structure to those you have worked on together before.

When the students have completed their writing it is important for them to go back and highlight or map each aspect in their essay that covers the elements of the mnemonic/strategy.

A variation of this could be that the groups passed on their TAKO and SEXY paragraphs to another group to highlight and map each aspect of the mnemonics as they appear in the writing.

NB: You may need to repeat this lesson before you feel confident that students can perform independently and you may need one for TAKO and one or more for SEXY aspects.

Lesson Five - Independence

Set the context for student learning

This lesson is about the individual/independent performance and use of the strategy.

Remind the students that you have been working on Response to Text essay writing and learning a strategy for writing effective essays. Quickly retest/reinforce the mnemonics that have been used / developed for this purpose. Explain the purpose of these essays and how they are similar or different to other types of essays. Link to students’ individual goals – remind them that they should set writing goals before they start learning.

You could get them to work independently on any or all of the aspects that have been covered above in the other lessons i.e. independently identifying parts of the mnemonic in an essay, independently producing a TAKO introduction or SEXY paragraph (or both) etc.

Tell the students to use their self-statements to manage their work and to keep them on track as they do the writing.

You will need to monitor to see if all of the students are ready for independent performance. It may be necessary to form a group to work collaboratively and who continue to need support to do the work.

Published on: 18 Jan 2011