I created a simple paragraph format for my students to help them respond to the types of multiple-sentence assignments they found in their science, social studies, and English textbooks. The idea was to give the kids a template for developing a top quality answer and teaching them to apply the template to all of these assignments. I wanted my students to be able to wow their other instructors with high level responses.
To accomplish the task, students just had to follow a few simple rules. First among these was to write four sentences for each response. Second was to use keywords from the textbook’s original question. Other rules involved making a claim, proving the claim with details, and analyzing the claim in relation to the details.
Most of my students stepped up to the task when they found out how they would be graded. Each response was worth five points. If they wrote less than four sentences they would only get one point. If they wrote four sentences they would be eligible for the full five poinsts, as long as their answers were of sufficient quality to demonstrate that they understood what they were talking about and had proved their points. I wanted to teach students to develop their answers. Unfortunately, some students by nature resist such well-intentioned desires.
One student, a kid I truly enjoyed talking to and having in class, was a born and bred member of La Resistance. He would artfully avoid anything that would signal his true ability, therefore he naturally would turn in a one-sentence response to every question in order to earn his one, and only one point for each.
As all good English teachers do, I wrote a lengthy diatribe on his feeble assignment, gave it back, and informed him that he had to return it to me completely rewritten, with four sentences for each response. The next day he came in smiling, tossed the original sheet of paper on my desk, and went to his seat. I looked at the paper and noticed that his solution was to take his single sentence answers and randomly place three additional periods in each. It was a brilliant solution.
I believe he is working as a chef. If not, it would be a waste of talent. He was a great cook, even in middle school.