Forming an Argument
Lesson 16 of 16
Objective: SWBAT write an opinion describing a pattern of behavior that helps offspring survive.
Our baby birds are finally ready to leave the nest! Today, we will write an opinion as a culminating event for the second half of the unit, which addresses NGSS standard 1-LS1-2 Read texts and use media to determine patterns in behavior of parents and offspring that help offspring survive.
The NGSS states that one of the scientific practices all children should engage in is argument from evidence. Over the last few lessons, we have created a Comparison Chart listing different behaviors of birds helping their offspring survive. We have also noted WOW facts, which were facts that were unexpected based on the schema we started with (that birds have nests in trees and feed their young worms). Basically, the NGSS asks for students to state opinions with evidence/observations to back up their thinking. By referring to the Comparison Chart when writing their opinions, students are citing textual evidence to support their argument.
Students must also listen to the opinions of others (Science Practice #7) in order to agree, disagree, or be able to retell. For this reason, I will have students state their opinions to one another before writing. We will listen and then evaluate whether the student has strong or weak evidence.
The Common Core writing standard for first grade calls for students to write opinion pieces in which they introduce the topic, state an opinion, supply a reason for the opinion, and provide some sense of closure.
In today's lesson, we merge the NGSS standards and practices with the Common Core writing standard! I find that students have the most difficulty with the opening and closing statements, and that often these statements seem formulaic. If your students are new to writing opinions, you may consider providing an opening and closing statement. I make a list of openings and closings as a class, and then students can choose the ones they prefer.
First, I will be setting the stage by connecting to our previous lessons.
Friends, over the last few days, we have been learning about the many ways that birds take care of their offspring. We've recorded our new learning here, on the Comparison chart.
Here is a sample comparison chart for these lessons as well.
Next, I share today's lesson objective.
Today, we will be writing an opinion about which bird has the most unique way that it takes care of its offspring. Unique means interesting, or special. An opinion means it's what we think, and it's okay to have different thinking than our friends. Check out this cool song, that explains the difference between facts (that we all agree with) and opinions (that we might not agree about).
I have found that first graders struggle with openings and closings of opinions. I liken it, though, to calling someone on the phone. You can use the example of calling a pizza place, a friend for a sleepover, or whatever your students will best relate to!
When you call a friend to see if they want a play-date, you don't start by asking them to bring over their bike. Wouldn't it be weird for someone to say hello and then you to say, "Go ask your mom." They would wonder, "Ask my mom about what?" First, you start with a question, "Would you like to come over a ride bikes? Great! Go ask your mom." You have to tell them why you are calling.
An opening is a lot like a phone conversation. Before you tell why a bird is most unique, you have to tell what you are writing about. Let's make a list of openings together!
Our list usually has hooks like these:
- Let me tell you about...
- Did you know...
- I'm an expert about...
- Have you ever wondered...
Then, we brainstorm a list of closings too. I come back to the telephone conversation.
Before you and your friend hang up, you probably tell them what time to come over with their bike. This is an important detail! And you probably say goodbye. That's plain old good manners. Well, we want to say goodbye to our readers too. That's called a closing. Let's make a list of closings together!
Our closings list looks like this:
- That's why...
- I'm sure you agree...
- As you can see...
- I bet you want to learn more about...
I tell students that they can pick any one of the openings and closings. I go over the Opinion Writing template. You can choose to have students write one reason or two. I often let students choose the organizer they prefer.
This year, we completed this lesson after a long weekend. Before asking students to choose a bird, I reread and went back over the comparison chart with them. Then, I had students turn-and-talk with a partner first and make their choice.
Next, I ask students to pick which bird they feel has the most unique ways of making sure their offspring survive. I ask students to stand in the corners of the rug-- one corner for puffins, one for cranes, one for eagles, and one for penguins. I ask them to each share one reason. This activity gives them a chance to retell (and be reminded of) key details. It also prepares them for writing as it focuses them on a topic. And it shows that no one is wrong as long as they have evidence to support their opinion!
When students share their reason, the remainder of the class listens in order to evaluate their evidence (Science Practice #7). If the evidence presented is strong, students flex their biceps in approval. If it's a little weak, I ask students to make suggestions to help.
Then, students return to their seats to write. I support beginning writers with verbalizing their thinking and double-checking the Comparison Chart. I also allow students to move closer to the Comparison Chart and/or Openings and Closings lists for copying purposes. I spend this time circulating and monitoring student progress. Students who finish will place their work in my "black basket" and then read independently while their friends finish.
Here are some work samples:
Student work #1 "Let me tell you about cranes. The reason why I picked cranes is because when the babies hatch they climb in the mom's feathers to keep warm. That is why cranes are special."
Student work #2 "Let me tell you about how mom and dad puffins take care of their offspring. Puffins are the best because they dig a nest. Puffins can fly. That is why puffins are special."
Student work #3 Beginning Writer "Let me tell you about penguins. Penguin dads take care of the egg. That is why penguins are special." I supported this writer by helping him formulate his thoughts, providing post-it notes for him to close point copy, and also prewriting the closing for him.
Student work #4 "Did you know that birds take care of their offspring? Bald eagles take care of offspring because when they come in the nest they their claws in. That's why eagles are special to me."
Student work #5 "Let me tell you about how cranes take care of their offspring. I think cranes are special because the baby cranes hide in their mom's and dad's feathers. That's why cranes are special to me."
Finally, since our unit has come to a close, I ask students for their advice about the KLEWS chart we have developed throughout the unit. Would they like to hang it in the hallway to share with the school, or in our classroom science area? Would they like to keep the additional bird books and field guides out, or are they ready to return them to the school library? I ask these questions because student learning about birds doesn't need to stop just because the unit does. There may be tons of unanswered questions, and I may need to get more books from our library!