Informational Essay Planning: Essay Rubric and Essay Planner | EL Education Curriculum

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ELA 2012 G8:M3B:U2:L16

Informational Essay Planning: Essay Rubric and Essay Planner

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Long Term Learning Targets

  • I can write informative/explanatory text that conveys ideas and concepts using relevant information that is carefully selected and organized. (W.8.2)

Supporting Targets

  • I can identify strategies and resources to help me spell correctly on my informational essay.
  • I can plan an informational essay using relevant details from texts that are carefully selected and organized.

Ongoing Assessment

  • Gathering Evidence note-catcher


AgendaTeaching Notes

1.  Opening

     A.  Engaging the Writer and Reviewing Learning Targets (7 minutes)

2.  Work Time

     A.  Reviewing the Essay Rubric (15 minutes)

     B.  Language Mini-lesson:  Active and Passive Voice (5 minutes)

     C.  Planning the Essay (15 minutes)

3.  Closing and Assessment

     A.  Previewing Homework (3 minutes)

4.  Homework

     A.  Finish your Informational Essay Planner.

  • In this lesson, students prepare to write their end of unit assessment essay. Students are building on the writing skills they have developed in the first two modules; therefore, they are expected to do more of this work with less scaffolding. A sample Informational Essay Planner is provided in the supporting materials of this lesson.
  • While this lesson provides organizational supports, such as the essay planner and a Quote Sandwich, which will be useful for many students, there is more than one way to organize this essay. Consider and encourage other organizational structures for the essay as long as the end result is an essay that answers the prompt and meets the expectations outlined by the NYS Expository Writing Evaluation Rubric.
  • Correct spelling is an expectation at the eighth-grade level and has been expected throughout the preceding modules. In this module, students are given strategies and resources for accurate spelling as they write their informational essay.
  • Students review the NYS Expository Writing Evaluation Rubric to understand the expectations of the essay. However, since students analyzed this rubric in more depth in Module 1, the review focuses only on the "3" column, which reflects the expectations that students should meet in their writing. The "4" column is left in to encourage students to set higher goals for themselves.
  • In advance:

-   Decide which Discussion Appointments students will use in this lesson.

-   Cut out Rubric Criteria strips.

  • Post: Learning targets.




  • Informational essay prompt and New York State Grades 6-8 Expository Writing Evaluation Rubric (one per student)
  • Gathering Evidence note-catcher (begun in Lesson 7)
  • Rubric Criteria strips (one strip per pair)
  • Sample Rubric Criteria strips (for teacher reference and display)
  • Document camera
  • Informational Essay Planner (one per student)
  • Sample Informational Essay Planner (for teacher reference)
  • Quote Sandwich (one per student and one to display)
  • Quote Sandwich examples (one for display)



A. Engaging the Writer and Reviewing Learning Targets (7 minutes)

  • As students enter, distribute the informational essay prompt and New York State Grades 6-8 Expository Writing Evaluation Rubric. Invite students to sit with one of their Discussion Appointment partners.  Be sure that they have their Gathering Evidence note-catchers and ask students to reread the essay prompt as they get settled. Invite students to share one piece of evidence they selected from their Gathering Evidence note-catchers and explain why they chose it.
  • Cold call one to two pairs to share their responses. Although responses will vary, listen for students to say something like: "I selected this quote from A Mighty Long Way: 'News of the mob at Central High had been broadcast on the radio, a lot of it was wrong about students being beaten and an uncontrollable mob' (page 90). I think it's the best evidence because perhaps unknowingly, the media provided an inaccurate story of what really happened and this bred fear and influenced the integration attempts at Central High in the first days."
  • Direct students' attention to the posted learning targets. Read the learning targets aloud:

*   "I can identify strategies and resources to help me spell correctly on my informational essay."

*   "I can plan an informational essay using relevant details from texts that are carefully selected and organized."

  • Ask students to turn and talk to a partner about which of the two learning targets they feel most comfortable with right now.
  • Ask students to show you which they are most comfortable with by putting that many fingers in the air; for instance, if they are most comfortable with the first one, put one finger in the air.
  • Ask students to keep the learning target that they feel least comfortable with in mind during class today and encourage them to try to make progress with their comfort level on that learning target before they leave class today. To do that, they need to do their best thinking and ask questions.

Work Time

Work TimeMeeting Students' Needs

A. Reviewing the Essay Rubric (15 minutes)

  • Remind students that in Module 1, their essays were assessed using the New York State Expository Writing Evaluation Rubric and that same rubric will be used again this time. Emphasize the importance of students knowing what criteria will be used to assess their work.
  • Direct students' attention to the full rubric included on the Informational Essay Prompt and New York State Grades 6-8 Expository Writing Evaluation Rubric that you distributed at the start of the lesson. Point out the headings of the rows on the left side and read them aloud:

-   Content and Analysis

-   Command of Evidence

-   Coherence, Organization, and Style

-   Control of Conventions

  • Remind students that these are the different aspects of writing that they are assessed on. Now, point to the "3" column. Explain that this column shows them what is generally expected of them in their writing.
  • Distribute one of the Rubric Criteria strips to each pair of students. Point out that at the top of the strip is one heading of one row on the rubric and that the criterion on that strip is from the "3" column on the rubric. Then, point out that there is a prompt for students to finish: "This means that in my informational essay, I need to ..."
  • Explain that students need to write, in their own words, what the criterion will look like in their essay writing. Model this by displaying Strip 7 from the Sample Rubric Criteria strips (for teacher reference) with the document camera.  Do a think-aloud. First read the criterion from the Content and Analysis row:

*   "Demonstrate grade-appropriate analysis of the text(s)"

  • Model how to finish the prompt and write in the space provided: "This means that in my informational essay, I need to ... use the texts we have read to accurately explain how television, newspapers, and other press influenced the story of the Little Rock Nine by illuminating or making clear events and sometimes providing an incomplete or inaccurate picture of events. I also need to explain how this affected people's perceptions." Refer to the Sample Rubric Criteria strips (for teacher reference) for guidance.
  • Point out that on students' copies of the informational essay prompt and rubric, they can take notes about writing their essays. Have students take notes based on your modeling in the Content and Analysis row.
  • Invite students to turn their attention to their own Rubric Criteria strip and work with their partners to describe what that will look like in their essays.
  • Then, ask pairs who had Strip 1 to raise their hands. Cold call one pair to share what they wrote and encourage students to write it down on their copy of the informational essay prompt and rubric in the space provided.
  • Continue this until all six strips have been shared and students have taken notes. Refer to the Sample Rubric Criteria strips for possible answers.
  • Consider pulling a small group of students who struggle with writing during this time and reading through the model body paragraph with the annotated active and passive voice in the Sample Informational Essay Planner (for teacher reference; see supporting materials).

B. Language Mini Lesson (5 minutes)

  • Let students know that they need to use both the active and passive voice in their essays.
  • Write these two sentences on the board:

-   Carlotta was bullied by some students.

-   Some students bullied Carlotta.

  • Read each sentence aloud, asking students to follow along.
  • Ask students to look at the first sentence and think about who is emphasized more in it: Carlotta or the students. Invite students to give a thumbs-up when they have an answer. Call on one to share thoughts. Listen for: "In the first sentence, Carlotta is emphasized more because she is mentioned first."
  • Reread the second sentence: "Some students bullied Carlotta." 
  • Once again, ask students to think about who is emphasized in that sentence and give a thumbs-up when they know. Call on a student to share. Listen for: "In the second sentence, the students are emphasized more because they are mentioned first."
  • Now ask students to turn and talk to their partner to identify which sentence is written in active voice and which is written in passive voice. After about 1 minute, cold call a pair. Listen for: "The first sentence is in the passive voice and the second sentence is in the active voice." 
  • Remind students to keep the active and passive voice in mind; they will need to use those intentionally when they draft their essay in the next lesson. While most of their essay will be in the active voice, at times they may use the passive when the "acted upon" is the more important in that particular sentence.

C. Planning the Essay (15 minutes)

  • Distribute the Informational Essay Planner. Point out its similarity to the essay planner they used in Module 2 to write their argument essays.
  • Point out that a major difference between the essay planner in Module 2 and this Informational Essay Planner is that authors don't need to take a position or address a counterclaim in informational writing, but they still need to have a focus statement or topic.
  • Distribute the Quote Sandwich and display it on the document camera. Read it aloud and invite students to follow along silently. Point out that this should look familiar since they used it in Module 2. 
  • Explain that all three parts of the Quote Sandwich are very important for the reader to understand the information they include in their essays and how it develops their ideas. Explain that they may use this Quote Sandwich as a reference.
  • Display the Quote Sandwich examples.
  • Have students refer to their Quote Sandwiches to identify how each of the examples follows the guide. Move through each of the examples one at a time, noting each of the three parts of the Quote Sandwich. Note that the Quote Sandwich format is meant to help students add the evidence from the texts they read, and this evidence may be quoted or paraphrased. The Quote Sandwich works well for both paraphrasing and quoting.
  • Ask students to look at their Gathering Evidence note-catchers and instruct them to use them to fill out their essay planners.
  • Students may decide to also use details they did not put on their Gathering Evidence note-catcher, which is fine as long as it's still relevant to the essay prompt. Remind them of the resources they have for evidence and quotes, such as their structured notes that they have been completing throughout Units 1 and 2 for A Mighty Long Way and Little Rock Girl 1957.
  • Let students know that correct spelling will be an important part of this essay. Ask:

*   "What strategies can you use to make sure you are spelling words correctly?"

  • Cold call several students and listen for them to say: "You can use a dictionary," "You can use spell check," "You can read the word out loud to yourself," and "You can make sure it's the right form of the word, like 'there,' 'their,' and 'they're.'"
  • Remind students that it is important to be careful about spelling as they plan their essays, especially words that may not be as familiar to them, such as names, places, and domain-specific words.
  • Invite students to work on their essay planners independently. As students work, circulate to listen in and support as needed. Push students to be clear and explicit in their plan. Invite students to use a dictionary or spell check as they begin to plan their essay.
  • Consider meeting with students who struggle to have them talk through their essay plan with you. Clarify and support their plan as needed.

Closing & Assessments


A. Previewing Homework (3 minutes)

  • Tell students that their homework is to finish their Informational Essay Planner. Remind them that they have used a similar planner in previous modules so the format should look familiar to them.
  • In the next lesson, they will draft their essays, so it's important they do their very best on the planner. Remind students to take home the resources they may need to finish the planner, especially their Gathering Evidence note-catchers.


  • Finish your Informational Essay Planner.

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