8th graders are not particularly good at analysis. (Neither are the rest of us, for that matter, but more on that later.) The English classroom bears a lot of the burden for increasing reading and writing scores on standardized tests – regardless of the content of that reading or the purpose of that writing – and so we focus a lot on analytical writing, and how to improve the process of stating a claim and then proving it.
To help my students visualize this, I tell them they need to “connect the dots.” First, we make a main idea statement in the center of the page, then place brainstormed proof for this around it in a circle, each with its own dot. The analysis – the hardest part of writing – has to do the job of “connecting the dots” between the proof and the main idea. Don’t make the reader work for it, I tell them – make it obvious. Give the reader no choice but to agree with your point.
Here, then, are some of the brainstorms my students have handed in recently (retyped into a more linear format, for easier reading).
Finding Nemo is the best movie of all time.
1. Lots of action: the action where Merlin escapes the shark makes it great.
2. Talking fish: Not many movies have talking fish, which makes it a lot better.
3. And sharks: Having sharks makes it GREAT.
Jersey Shore is the best TV show of all time.
1. Fun: Partying in the show and its funny to watch with friends.
2. Violence: People are constantly getting in fights.
3. Good life lessons: What not to do when you're in public!
The Goonies is the best movie of all time.
1: The Truffle Shuffle – the truffle shuffle is a weird and funny move, which makes it good.
2: The Ship – I like the big ship with all the gold and stuff.
3: Booby Traps – The little asian boy [sic] uses dynamite to stop the villains. And it's funny when he says “booby.”