In the fall, I was talking to a pre-service teacher who was interviewing me for something — I don’t even remember what. The young lady mentioned to me a technique one of her English teachers had used when the girl was in high school. It was so great for middle schoolers that I had to steal it.
I now tell them to PEE in their paragraphs.
E=Evidence (or Example)
E=Elaboration (or Explanation)
The idea is to remind them to include details and support for each point they make. They got a huge kick out of it. (“I’m going to go home and tell my parents you told me to PEE in my paragraph!”) Even better is that for their prewriting, I used a graphic organizer called a Hamburger Model. (The top bun is the introduction, the body paragraphs are the meat of the essay, and the bottom bun is the conclusion.) So then they loved it when I told them their homework was to PEE in their Hamburgers.
And when state standardized testing came around, oh how they loved the idea of PEEing on their ISTEP tests!