Thursday, April 13, 2017

Help Your Students Organize their Opinion Writing with this Engaging Activity

A few weeks ago, my third grade cooperating teacher and I started our Opinion Writing unit.  We defined opinion, modeled opinion writing, provided students with a graphic organizer.

Common Mistakes

They all got to work writing about a Noteworthy Person.  As we started conferencing however we noticed a troubling trend in their writing pieces... our students were struggling with either:
 A.) The difference between a REASON and an EXAMPLE (to support the reason)
B.) Making sure their EXAMPLES matched their reasons!
C.) Writing really vague and unspecific reasons

We knew we had to do something, and I knew I had the perfect opinion piece to help them really Get It!

Classroom Activity

Step one: Find an opinion essay that is relate able and well-organized (if you don't have one, you can find mine at the bottom of this page). I had written this essay as a model for my 5th grade students a few years prior.  My 3rd graders felt like rock-stars when I told them they were going to be using a 5th grade essay!  I spaced out my essay leaving my Introduction and Conclusion paragraphs in tact, then putting my reasons, and 3 examples each on separate lines so they could be cut apart.

Step 2: Provide students with their Opinion Essay Organization Kits.  Mine consisted of 4 markers, one long sheet of construction paper (I cut a large sheet in half), and my cut apart essay.

Step 3: Students should locate the full paragraphs and determine which is the Introduction and which is the Conclusion.  This was a no-brainer for them since my conclusion literally begins "In conclusion".  However, we were also trying to get them to use appropriate transitional phrases, so this was another way to drive this idea home.  We used the yellow marker to highlight the transitions. Then they glued the introduction at the top, and the conclusion at the bottom.

Step 4: I asked the groups to read through the introduction to find my three reasons.  Again, they had to look for transitions here.  They highlighted the transitions in yellow, reason one in pink, reason two in green and reason three in purple.

Step 5: Now they had to search through the twelve smaller pieces to find my reasons again, since my reasons were also the first sentence of each of my paragraphs.  They had begun to catch on to the importance of the transition words and started looking for them at the beginning of the sentences.  I tricked some of them by using different transitions than I did in my introduction, but they figured it out quickly enough.  Once again we highlighted the transitions in yellow, and put dots on the slip to match the colors in the introduction (1= pink, 2= green, 3= purple).

Step 6: This was the hard part.  They had nine strips left, three examples for each of my three reasons.  They had to put these examples in the correct paragraph with the correct reason.  Some of these were easier than others.  They worked together though to figure it out.  Once that part was done we congratulated them on meeting our activity objective... but we weren't finished yet!

Step 7: This was the really hard part!  This, I told them was the challenge; this, was where they got to think like 5th graders.  They had to put the examples in an order that made sense!  If the example had the word HOWEVER that meant it had to come after an example stating the opposite (back to the importance of the transitions).  They also had to think about Big Idea to Small Idea.  This was something we did mostly as a whole group, until VOILA! my essay was complete.

Ok, one more step... we highlighted where I restated each reason in my conclusion as well!

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