Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Building in Time and Choice with Opinion Writing

Last year I played a bit with opinion writing  knowing this year my grade level would be transitioning to common core.  I'll be honest and say... I didn't love teaching the unit.  It could be because it was tough to find mentors that I loved or that I was too caught up in the standard rather than observing what my kids understood about it.  I ended up writing a few pieces to model using mentor text with my thinking process and then writing together during interactive writing but it didn't feel as fun as I thought it would.  I had the most success when I let the kids go and have time to write what was important to them. Time with choice in units always seems to bring out the best in my writers.

So, this year I knew I had to change it up a bit. I have read a few books from this basket:
We have had informal conversations about opinions and talked about characters who have them before beginning the unit. I even over heard a little boy during playtime last month tell the other boy he was building with: "we have different opinions about how to build this marble run." It was interesting to me that only after really two informal conversations that he was beginning to recognize what it means to have an opinion. That's when I started thinking about the time piece again...they need time not only to write about their opinions but to talk about what it means to them. So, I feel a bit more confident having introduced the notions of opinions and characters who have them before the study. 
I am also excited to teach the unit this year because I found the beginning to an opinion piece in one student's writing folder:

It was a happy little surprise to see Adrienne had applied some thinking about the seasons and decided to tell us her opinion!  It will be nice to have a student piece to share this early and to talk through the decisions she is making and why. 
Knowing that time and choice help me guide kids in a unit of study,  I decided to approach the first week of the study a bit differently as we explore mentors.  I want to embed time and choice throughout the study this year.  We still will be exploring ideas but I wanted to combine what they learn from others with opinions and keep track of how their own ideas for writing emerged. I also wanted to combine blogposts (a few former student posts on kidblog), videos and written pieces as starting points for what kids will be thinking about when they explore opinion writing. I know a handful of kids will want to jump on the blog because of their understanding of audience. Some will choose paper but I want to show them how digital mentors can be as powerful as written ones.  So I came up with a chart for recording our thinking alongside mentors that I will introduce next week. 
I know their understandings gathered in the middle piece of the chart will help me assess out what they know about opinions and will lead me to what I need to help them further understand. The last section will help us gather many ideas. These changes feel subtle but have changed my energy for the unit (and my rethinking addiction).
Later this week, I will share the mentors that I'll be experimenting with and why I feel like they match the needs of my students.  For now, I am off to enjoy today. Have a good one.


Mary Lee said...

Our 5th grade writers are going to be tackling an oral presentation (persuasive or informational) and both TIME and CHOICE were part of the discussion as my Language Arts partner and I planned yesterday!

Cathy said...

I will be attempting review/opinion writing with second grade. First time ever! Could you share what books are in the basket? I would also love to see an updated version of your chart so I can see what it might look like in a classroom (if you're willing to share).

katied said...

Sure Cathy-
Duck Rabbit has helped us think about characters with opinions and how often we change our opinion when we talk with others.
REd is Best is another book in the basket which the little girl supports her opinion about why she wants to wear her red boots and red scarf, etc.
Click, clack Moo is in the basket because the cows take action with their opinion and write the farmer. We talk about how sometimes you might have something you feel strongly about and share your opinion about it.
Mercy Watson is in this basket because Eugenia, the next door neighbor to Mercy has strong opinions about people owning pigs as pets.
I would be glad to share our ideas chart as soon as school begins next week!

debf said...

Karen told me this was a post I shouldn't miss and she was right! I am just beginning to think about how to introduce and teach opinion writing! Your post(s) are VERY helpful! I was inspired to create an Opinion Writing list on Listmanina

Your point in the importance of conversation is well taken! Just Friday my kids were in a great conversation as to who is telling the story in Snow Day by Lester Laminick. This may be just the kick off we need!

Cathy said...

Thanks! I know the common core standard and just am not sure as to where to lead the students in types of reviews...sharing their opinion will be fun. They are already arguing over the best football team. I am excited to be able to show them how to support and give's just nice to see that others have the same expectations and high standards for student writing...looking forward to seeing how my thinking grows in this genre...