Monday, January 21, 2013

Ten Things I Love About You by Daniel Kirk

Over break, I found a new book by Daniel Kirk.  You may know him from the Library Mouse series or   his Elf Realm series.  I love his characters and illustrations. In his newest book, Ten Things I Love About You, I found some opinion possibilities for young writers. I introduced this text in writing workshop as we were thinking about writing reasons to support opinion.  I found my kids engaged in the back and forth between these two good friends: Pig and Rabbit.

Rabbit stops by to see Pig, sharing his idea to write a list of the 10 things he loves about him.  While he is filled with ideas just being with his friend, Pig is a bit bothered by Rabbit as he is also trying to begin his own list for his friend. When Pig says, "I'm starting to lose my patience," Rabbit adds to his list: I love Pig because he is not afraid to show his feelings. The kids caught on the the humor in the back and forth and we had some laughs with this funny-sweet book.  I also loved the map in the beginning pages of the book that shows Rabbit and Pig's homes. And, the story ends with a thorough list of what each character loved about the other...filled with opinion and reasons for each.

We had a bunch of talked about how a list might be a way to organize a piece about your opinion in a different and clever way. While the "love" part was sappy for some, we talked briefly but a bit further about how Kirk's structure could serve in a piece about something one of us cared about.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Mentors for Opinion Writing

This week we started to look at some mentors for opinion writing.  It helped my kids most to be reminded of what exactly it means to have an opinion and to have opportunities to write their opinion.
On Monday we read What Makes You Smile, a book I read last year to provide kids an opportunity to just share an opinion on an easy topic.

Tuesday, I read Red is Best by Kathy Stinson.  Like last year, this book helps kids see that characters can have different opinions and explains the reason for the opinion.  I also shared a few of the books last year's group made: Emma is Best by Alyssa about all the reasons her little cousin is her friend. White is best by Sumendha about all the reasons she loves white.  After all these titles were shared, I had a few kids begin books about their opinions.  Molly began writing Me a book about her favorites and why (she starts off with great voice and a beginning that will be a great mentor for us later too.)

Wednesday I showed the students a toy review online for the Straws and Connectors they love to play with in the classroom.  Before going to the site, I asked them to think with a neighbor about why they like playing with this toy.  I showed them how their same ideas were written in a review.  I used an amazon reviewer and showed the kids the pop up box that happens when you click the reviewers thoughts on the screen.  Enlarged on our whiteboard, I pointed and read what a couple reviewers wrote. I knew they were just beginning to digest the what a toy review even was. This idea for the toy review came from Katie W Ray at the AllWrite conference last summer.  Though I did not have a chance to hear her, I heard about this idea and decided to go for it. What kid doesn't have an opinion about their toy?! 

Thursday, I shared with my class a blogpost an old student of mine wrote about her favorite character Bossy Bear and her opinion about the book:
 After this class, I had many kids hop on the blog to write.


You'll notice that Anna H wrote about a toy she was excited about. Not quite with an opinion but with ideas that have been laid out during the week so that she can build her opinion. Revision and editing here we come!  And, 4 comments to fuel her excitement for the topic.

On Friday, I wanted to help some of my young passionate kids to realize how an opinion about something can help change the world. I showed them this video of Katie.  Afterwards, I asked the kids to help retell and explain what they watched. Many of my students began to figure out that this little third grader donated her cabbage plant to a local food pantry (Jack deemed a free food store) and decided to plant more and donate more because helping others was important to her.  Lots of conversation began as a few students started thinking about what what our class could do to help change the world.  Feeding the animals, planting trees, and a few other ideas surfaced.  One student is writing a book about how to Help the World.

Using the idea of the toy review, I have built in practice for brainstorming a list (during interactive writing) of toys kids would like to review. We started this Friday, not only thinking about sounds and patterns in words as we composed but also visiting sites featuring toys like blingles and skylanders after kids shared their opinions about their favorite toys.  The excitement is building!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Baby Bear Sees Blue by Ashley Wolf

My kids loved Z is Moose though the book trailer went over a few heads, one of my students who is pretty knowledgeable about plays picked up on the idea of Zebra directing the stage production. All in all they enjoyed the humor of Moose.
 After reading Baby Bear Sees Blue, one of my students said near the end, "Now this is a good book!" I love the repetition of Baby Bear Sees Blue and the simple description is lovely.  It is a perfect book for reading aloud to primary kids. In this story, baby bear learns about the smells and sights of nature with his mother. The pictures are remarkable.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Z is for Moose

Today it is back to school after a great 2 week break. I can't remember the last time I let myself sleep in past 7am for 4 consecutive days. I really needed the time to relax and do a bunch of nothing.  I watched 8 movies, some at the theatre and some rental. I didn't read as much for myself as I like but started Cutting for Stone that I am loving.

I did hit Cover to Cover and found lots of books I can't wait to share with my kids. Today, I am going to read: Z is for Moose and show them the Harper Kids trailer.  I know they will love it!  It is funny and will make them think! Moose reminds me of Chester because of their strong desire to be noticed and understood. Z is for Moose has a cast of characters ready to showcase the alphabet mixing with a little friendship at the end.  I'll let you know what my kids think.  Happy Monday!

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.