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Grade 8 Essay Writing & Visual Literacy Unit

Timeline: November 14- December 21

This unit will build on what the students learned about essay writing in
grade 7. Previously the students learned basic paragraph structure and how to
follow their topic sentences to write multiple paragraphs on different parts of a
single topic. Now, this is translating to the students learning how to write a
thesis and connect multiple paragraphs back to one overarching argument by
making multiple supporting arguments on the same topic. This unit will be
content rich and oriented around independent work, which is why I am
including a lesson each week on visual literacy to break up the material with a
topic that is more familiar and engaging. Visual literacy can be defined as is the
ability to interpret, negotiate, and make meaning from information presented
in the form of an image. This is an important skill in todays visual and digital
oriented society, with visual mediums being used for entertainment and in
media on a daily basis.
Stage 1 Desired Results

Established Goals GLO(s):

GLOs 1-5
1. Students will listen, speak, read, write, view and represent to explore thoughts, ideas, feelings and
2. Students will listen, speak, read, write, view and represent to comprehend and respond personally and
critically to oral, print and other media texts.
3. Students will listen, speak, read, write, view and represent to manage ideas and information.
4. Students will listen, speak, read, write, view and represent to enhance the clarity and artistry of
5. Students will listen, speak, read, write, view and represent to respect, support and collaborate with

Understandings: Essential Questions:

Students will understand that
What is a thesis statement?
I can write a strong thesis statement What is an introduction?
I can write an engaging introduction that What are body paragraphs?
outlines my essay How do I plan an essay?
I can form arguments that support my thesis How do I form arguments?
I can use planning resources to format an essay How do I research and use research to
I can format body paragraphs that follow proper support my arguments?
paragraph structure What is a conclusion?
I can include research in my essay effectively to
support my arguments
I can write a conclusion that wraps up my ideas
and outlines the main points I made

Prior understandings Students will be able to (SLOs):

1.1 Discover and Explore
Understanding the basic structure of a paragraph 1.2 Clarify and Extend
Being able to write a topic sentence 2.1 Use Strategies and Cues
Writing an entire paragraph following your topic 2.2 Respond to Texts
2.3 Understand Forms, Elements and
Being able to write multiple paragraphs on the 2.4 Create Original Text
same main topic
Where does this lead? 3.1 Plan and Focus
3.2 Select and Process
To developing academic writing skills that transfer over 3.3 Organize, Record and Evaluate
to multiple subject areas. 3.4 Share and Review
4.1 Enhance and Improve
4.2 Attend to Conventions
4.3 Present and Share
5.1 Respect Others and Strengthen
5.2 Work within a Group

Stage 2 Assessment Evidence


The paragraphs they wrote for me in the short story unit.

Quizzes, Tests, Assignments Performance Tasks, Projects

There will be no quizzes or tests throughout the unit but Students will have a draft portion of their essay due
students will be tested in January for their mid year each week to be looked at and commented on by me.
exam. Questions will include: what is a thesis statement, This will go towards classwork marks.
what is the first sentence in a paragraph called and what
is its role, what items are on the evidence spice rack, etc. At the end their final essay will be due which will be
a summative assignment.
Other Evidence (observations, work samples, dialogues) Student self-assessment

Journal reflections. Journal reflections.

Discussions. Editing writing assignments. Editing checklists.
Mind maps- individual and as a class

Formative Assessment (will have written feedback)
Summative Assessment (marked with rubric)

Unit Outline
Week Activities/Assessments Resources SLOs
1 Introduce why essays are like meals and discuss why essay Essays are like meals 1.1
writing is an important skill. (package) 2.1
Nov 14-17
Have students pick their essay topic. Go around the room and
have each student share their topic and why they chose it. 3.1

Zoos are sometimes seen as necessary

but not poor alternatives to a natural
environment. Discuss some of the
arguments for and/or against keeping
animals in zoos.

Do vegan/vegetarian diets contribute to a better lifestyle?

Should school dress codes and/or uniforms be mandatory in

all Alberta public schools?

Should cell phones be incorporated and welcome in school

classrooms or are they a distraction?

Imagine that your teacher wants to teach a new subject for

the next few weeks. Your teacher will take suggestions, and
then let the students vote on the new subject. What subject
should your class choose? Write an essay to support your
choice and to persuade readers to vote for your choice.
(Perhaps this could be submitted to Principal Rolli for a
future experiential week suggestion?)

Go through Thesis statements are like menus.

Discuss why we need thesis statements.

Have students come up with other analogies that explain the
purpose of a thesis statement.
Go through examples of theses.
Have students make a thesis statement checklist to
summarize the key points they need to remember.
Hand out bad thesis statements and have students get into
groups to rewrite them.
Go through them all as a class and discuss what makes a
thesis strong and why it needs to be strong.

Have students draft a thesis statement and go through their

Have students get into groups of 4 to discuss and revise each
other's thesis statements.
I will go around to each group and give some advice/feedback.

Have students hand in their thesis drafts. They will get one
classroom mark for this. I will then give feedback to each one.

Introduce what visual literacy means and why it is important

and relevant in this digital age.

Do an activity with making inferences using an old

photograph in historic Lethbridge.

2 Go through essay planning resources. Have 1.2

worksheets/templates available for students to use. 2.1
Nov 20-24
Have students use their computers to find/research 3
arguments that prove their thesis for their essays and use one 3.1
of the planning sheets to plan their essay. 4.2
Discuss why introductory paragraphs are like free samples.

Have students annotate two examples of introductory

paragraphs to see what the main purpose of the intro is. Go
through these as a class.

Give students bad examples of intro paragraphs and have

them rework them in groups to make them stronger. Go
through these as a class.

Have students make a checklist on the important parts of an

intro paragraph for them to keep in their notes to summarise
the main points discussed.

Students will write their own introductions using their

research and planning pages. Then they will self edit and peer
edit them.

Have students hand in their introduction drafts. They will get

one classroom mark for this. I will then give feedback to each

Show silent short The Paperman and have students make

inferences using the short.

3 Introduce why evidence is like seasoning. 2.1

Nov 27-Dec Go through the spice rack, explaining the main examples
1 of evidence. Show examples from my own essays for each
one. 3.2
Have students research their topics to find evidence for each
of their 3 arguments relating to their thesis.
Ie: If they are arguing that zoos can be beneficial and increase
quality of life for animals, one of their main points may be
that animals live longer in captivity. In the paragraph where
they discuss this they will then show stats, quotes by
researchers, and introduce other evidence to prove this.

Here they can also adapt their 3 main points as they gather
evidence. Students will be expected to save the links for each
of their sources on the computers as we will use them for
referencing later.

They will make webs for each 3 points with 3-5 peices
evidence branching off to be handed in. They will get one
classroom mark for this. I will then give feedback to each one.

(Visual Lit) Have students use Rorys Story Cubes to come up

with stories using the images on the cubes. They have to
create meaning by using the visual provided.

(Visual Lit) Put an image on the screen. In their journals

students will infer potential meaning from the image in their
note books.

4 Body Paragraphs are like the courses of a meal. 2.1

December Have students write their 3-4 body paragraphs.
Draft body paragraphs will be due at the end of the week. 4.2
They will get one classroom mark for this. I will then give
feedback to each one.

5 Transitions 2.1
Dec 11-15 Conclusion
Meme assignment 3.3

Dec 18-20 Edit, peer edit, and hand in essays 1.2

Christmas/goodbye party