One of the most difficult but important skills we teach our students is how to write non-narrative prose. Crafting and defending an argument is an essential skill in many professions but for my first five years of teaching I put it aside in favor of teaching facts and multiple choice test taking tricks.
KEATEAL is one of the most helpful tools I’ve found for helping students write expository essays (shout out to Megan Lowe for introducing it to me – good teachers borrow, great teachers steal).
K – Key point from the thesis statement
E – Evidence (piece of evidence #1)
A – Analysis of the Evidence
T – Transition to piece of evidence #2
E – Evidence (piece of evidence #2)
A – Analysis of the Evidence
L – Link back to the thesis statement
I teach KEATEAL by introducing what the acronym means and then having my students read an essay I wrote about Lady Gaga answering the question: Was Lady Gaga “born that way?” (Born This Way is the title of one of her albums). Here is an example of a paragraph:
Thesis: Lady Gaga was not “born that way” instead she has purposefully spent years creating a “weird” image, her record company employs highly paid professionals who help work to create her image, and she earns millions for being a different, sensational performer.
K: Although she claims to have been “born that way” the strange fashion and behavior of Lady Gaga is actually something she has worked long and hard to create.
E: Stefani Germanotta grew up in a very strict Catholic School (where Ms. Garland’s brother-in-law went to school!) and so she felt the need to “break free” when she graduated. She became a dancer in the underground club scene in New York she adopted the name “Lady Gaga” from the Queen song Radio Ga Ga.
A: This shows that instead of being “born that way,” Lady Gaga took purposeful steps to escape her roots and make herself into something she was not.
T: In addition to changing her name, Lady Gaga has also create a narrative about her high school experience different from the story those who went to school with her tell.
E: High school friends report that she was “a good student” and had a “core group of friends” whereas Lady Gaga claims that although she was “very dedicated . . . studious” she “didn’t fit in” (Wikipedia).
A: This shows that Lady Gaga made up a story about her high school life that seemingly justifies her current image and provocative behavior.
L: Despite Lady Gaga’s claims that she was “born that way” she actually has re-written the story of her high school career as well as changed her name to literally become someone different.
Then I’ll have students color code an academic example of a KEATEAL essay such as the one below:
I have used this strategy successfully in both middle school and high school classrooms. What strategies do you use in your classroom to get your students doing non-fiction writing?