My advice with this age group is not to start them on essay writing, but on creative writing.
The students will be enthusiastic about writing creatively. This will give you something to work with in terms of improving their grammar, paragraph structure etc.
Production, I would guess is the issue for you at this stage.
Here’s an example of a creative writing lesson plan.
A Mars Settlement
Yesterday, President Bush said that he wants to increase space travel. He wants to send another man to the moon and even to Mars. He thinks one day men will live on Mars.
You are one of the first settlers on Mars. You have lived there for one year. Write about your first year. What problems did you have? How did you solve them? What was the best thing that happened? What was the worst thing that happened?
Things to consider:
Make a list of 5 things that you will need:
How do you provide these things?
- We provide the water by __________________________________
Settlement on Mars Worksheet
What kind of things could go wrong?
Write down 3 things that could go wrong?
For example: Our air supply might breakdown.
Use: might in each sentence
Draw a picture of your settlement.
Use the worksheet as a means of stimulating conversation about what could go wrong. It could be anything from an alien attack to a dust storm.
By asking the kids the five things they need you open them up to the question of what could go wrong.
Let them think of a cool name for their settlement. Ask them why it was necessary to go to Mars. For example did something go wrong on earth or do we need more resources etc.
I always include one or two set grammar patterns as listed above in the worksheet and then require them to fit those patterns into their writing.
Then give them some basic structure:
I typically give them an example story by old students.
Orientation to Topic
Why are you colonizing Mars?
Who requested you?
Who is in your team?
What was Mars like when you arrived?
How did you feel?
How did you establish your settlement?
What went wrong?
What caused the problem?
How did you solve the problem?
How did you feel about your experience?
Would you like to live on Mars longer?
Do the worksheet in class time and have them start their writing and complete it for homework. Correct the assignment and then have them rewrite it completely. Read each students finished assignments to the class. This will encourage the kids to be more creative.
This has been my approach to junior high and upper elementary. It has been very successful.
Once the kids start producing writing you can then start to introduce concepts of paragraph structure and types. When they have mastered a variety of paragraph styles then move them on to essays. This will be years down the road.