Bob's Boxes is a technique developed by Bob Berkowitz for essay writing.
The students deconstruct the essay question and create a chart to organize the information needed to write the essay.
The "rows" of the chart become the paragraphs of the essay. The columns represent the components of the content required.
Students practice creating charts (Bob's Boxes) for lots of questions. We want them to become very good at analyzing an essay question and outlining the components in chart format.
The teacher develops one, too. The teacher chart is the "perfect" one—it includes all the information needed to get a perfect score on the essay. Students practice writing their essays from the perfect chart. In this way, they work separately on (1) analyzing the task and outlining the essay and (2) writing an essay until they are skilled at both. Then, they can put it all together - and earn a terrific grade on the essay.
This is a typical essay question for the NY State Regents Exam in World History:
“For 3 of the world’s religions, compare and contrast their beliefs on life after death, fate, and living a good life.”
Analyzing this, the students realize that they must include 3 religions and 3 beliefs. This can be put in a 3x3 table:
Students fill in the chart as best they can.
The teacher collects the student charts to provide feedback and gives the student a "perfect chart" created by the teacher. The students practice writing using the
Creating charts provides students with practice in defining the task (Big6 stage 1) extracting relevant information (Big6 4.2) and organizing (Big6 5.1).
Writing essays from perfect charts provides students with practice in synthesis (Big6 stage 5.2).
By working on this over and over, student become more and more skilled in:
- understanding what's expected of them in an essay.
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