November is finally here, and what better time to think of all of the things we are thankful for? "Things I'm Thankful For" may seem trite and overdone as a writing topic, but we can never overdo the message of learning to show appreciation for the people and things that make our lives rich and fulfilling.
Fortunately, this topic also makes a great first expository essay for upper elementary students because it's so easy to organize and write. Yes, it does involve "formula" writing, but I believe in starting out with one formulaic essay to teach students an easy way to organize their thoughts into a coherent paper. I loved having my students write about the people and things they were thankful for because it helped them focus on the positives in their lives, and their final essays made a nice gift to their families on Thanksgiving Day. After my students wrote the final drafts of their papers, they stapled them into a folder made from a large sheet of colored construction paper. Each student decorated a cover and glued it on to the front of his or her folder to create a special keepsake. If you really want to turn this activity into a full fledged "craftivity," provide plenty of time and lots of creative materials for students to use when decorating their Thanksgiving folders to take home. Having students add a small photo and the date is a nice touch because many families will treasure this special gift and keep it for many years.
My "Thankful Writing" activity became a yearly tradition because it was such a terrific writing activity, and it was so appreciated by my students' families. Because it worked so well for me, I wrote up the complete directions to share with others as a freebie. It's my little gift and my way of showing my appreciation for the many educators who have shared so much with me through the years. The packet includes complete directions, a graphic organizer for brainstorming, and directions for introducing students to expository writing. You can download it from my Seasonal Page on Teaching Resources or from my TpT store.
Tips for Success
In addition to what I wrote in the Thankful Writing freebie, I would like to share a few additional tips:
- Revising - I believe that the first step in the revision process should be a self-check completed by students. You can download a free Thankful Writing Revision Checklist to have your students complete before they revise their papers and write a second draft.
- Timing - Start on this activity right away, especially if your students have not written an expository essay before. You'll be surprised at how much time it takes to brainstorm ideas, teach them the format, write the first draft, revise and edit it, and create the final draft. You'll also want to allow plenty of time for students to decorate their folders.
- Grading - My other tip concerns grading the project. If you are going to spend several weeks on it, you'll probably need to grade it. To do this, I made a copy of the essay for myself so that I could make comments on it without marking up the one that went to parents. I felt that since this was their first expository essay, it was more of a learning activity than an assessment so I tended to grade it very leniently. Most of my comments and feedback took place during the writing conference so my final grade ended up being more of a participation grade than anything else.