Letters from Characters

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SWBAT write a convincing opinion piece by stating a character's opinion, supporting the opinion with details, and providing a closing statement.

Big Idea

This lesson really allows readers to show their comprehension of the characters' point of view.


5 minutes

Introduction and Common Core Connection

I like the lesson image because Prince Rupart in Cinder Edna reminds me or Prince Harry.  I think he is the unique one who doesn't follow the perfect path of royalty.  He is an individual like Prince Rupart.

The Common Core Standard W.1.1 says that the students need to be able to write and opinion piece where they introduce the topic or name the book they are writing about, state an opinion, supply reason for the opinion, and provide some sense of closure.  I thought this would be a nice unit to start after finishing the unit on point of view because students can respond by expressing a character's opinion now that they understand thoroughly his or her point of view.  I thought I would use some of the books we have read so students are already familiar with the text.  This is an introductory lesson to opinion writing.  It connects to previous learning and I will build the complexity of the text and allow the difficulty level of the task to increase with each lesson.  I find that starting by keeping the lesson simple is the best way to introduce a new skill.

I love all of the Cinderella books so I thought I would use Cinder Edna as the text we write about.  The students actually pretend to be Prince Rupart and have to tell why he loved Cinder Edna.  Using Prince Rupart is essential because Cinderella and Randolph only have their appearance as reasons they want to get married. Rupart and Edna have several reasons to support the decision.  In a previous lesson students did something similar, but this lesson adds depth and detail to the contents of their writing. 

One management strategy that helps me keep my students focused is transitioning (Transitions). Students move to their seats because first graders need transitions every twenty minutes or less depending on the day of the week.  Sometimes I find my students need transitions more often when they are tired.  The students are in the same grouping at they were at the lounge. They are now at desks and seated side by side.


My students are seated in the lounge (Peanut Butter Jelly Partner) in their usual heterogeneous assigned ability groups. I included video of how I seat the students. When I have my students collaborate they are supposed to talk to their peanut butter jelly partner. I use this to organize discussion.  I might tell the jelly partner to talk and then in the next discussion the peanut butter will talk.  This makes sure that both partners are sharing their ideas. Other times I allow the students to just discuss their question or prompt without controlling who is speaking.  Either partner can talk when they want. 

I ask the students to discuss what the word opinion might mean.  After one minute I ask a volunteer to share.  One person shares, and I add to what they say to explain what opinion means. I say, "An opinion is simply what you think. It doesn't need to be a fact or something that's true for everyone. I think dogs are cool, and that is my opinion." I share that today we are going to write a letter from the point of view of Prince Rupart.  I remind the class that we studied point of view, and now we will learn to write an opinion piece based on a character's point of view.

I think it is important for my class to know what the lesson goal is, and I make them state it.  I say, I can write a letter from the point of view of a character.  Then students echo, tell a friend, and say it with me.  I think repetition helps memory and telling a friend makes the lesson meaningful.

Guided Practice

10 minutes

I explain that as a class we are going to learn to write a letter from the point of view of Prince Rupart.  I show the students the format of a friendly letter.  I tell them that we will write the letter to Mrs. Black.  She is the teacher next door.  Students seem to feel more engaged when I tell the class this will help her teacher her lesson. This makes learning relevant and meaningful to my students.  They are then motivated to do the task with excellence.

Then I ask the students to discuss what they think goes first in a friendly letter.  I allow one volunteer to share their idea.  I ask students to agree or disagree and share their reasoning. I then add that the first statement needs to tell the reader the topic and book we are writing about.   I share that we are going to write about Cinder Edna from the point of view of Prince Rupart.  So, students have to discuss Prince Rupart's feelings.  I say, "What does he like about Edna?" One person shares and I write the response on the letter outline I made on the board.   Then, I explain that the students need at least three reasons to support their decision.  So, I ask my students to discuss the three reasons for Prince Rupart to marry Cinder Edna. I say, "What else does he like about her. How does he feel about her?"

Last, I share that the students need a closure to every paragraph.  I tell them what a closure might sound like. I say, "It is kind of wraps the paragraph up. Try restating everything we have written in one sentence. It is more general than the detail sentences. It is similar to the topic sentence." Then learners discuss in small groups what the closure should say.  I allow one volunteer to share and justify.  Then the rest of the class gives thumbs up, thumbs down, or hang 10.  Hang ten means they would say the same thing as the speaker. I learned this from another Master Teacher and my students think this is really cool.

Finally, I ask the class to tell me what goes next.  I add the closing parts to the letter and the signature (Board Work). 

Independent Practice

20 minutes

Students move to the center tables because we are ready for a transition.  I already have the stations set up with all materials needed.  The students (Working Students) write a letter to another teacher in our school of their choice about the opinion of Cinder Edna toward Prince Rupart.  I give the students a rubric (Opinion Writing Rubric), because I think they need to know what is required in this lesson and it is a lot to remember. 

Students write for 15 minutes as I walk around and monitor.  I stop and ask questions to guide students in the right direction.  Each student needs access to a copy of the text so they can reference it as they write.  This really helps the students with spelling.  Having a copy of the text also helps students find evidence in the text which is a major part of Common Core.


Partner Work

15 minutes

Students read their work to their group members.  The group members evaluate their partner's work using the rubric.  Evaluation is a higher order thinking skill and it takes support from me at this point in the year.  I walk around and help the students use the rubric and give their peers meaningful feedback.  I model meaningful feedback prior to this section.  After the students get their feedback from their peers I allow them to make adjustments to their work.

Student Reflection

5 minutes

This is the point in the lesson I allow volunteers to read their work to the class.  We are back in the lounge.  Usually everybody wants to read their work and depending on time I have to usually limit it to two or three students.  If we have time at the end of the day I let those share that did not get to if they want.  I keep their work on the board so I remember and this speeds up the packing up too.  I really value this time to model feedback and to share exemplar work.  Students learn so much from their peers and it is much more meaningful than when it comes from me.


5 minutes

I ask each student to share one thing they learned with a friend.  I listen closely so I can share what I heard.  This gives a nice sense of closure. Then I ask the class the chant three time, "An opinion is just what somebody thinks?" Basically, I am trying to get the class to remember what an opinion is, so they will know what I am talking about as we do more opinion writing.

Last, I restate the lesson goal and ask the students to echo, tell a friend, and repeat it with me: I can write a letter from the opinion of a character. I once had my principal interview one of my students.  She ask him what he learned about that day.  He told her dolphins. She played the interview for the whole grade in a meeting to prove that the kids do not know what they are supposed to be learning.  I got the point.  I have the students learn to objective. Sometimes as they move during transition I even have them say the objective three times.  I believe that students need to understand what they are supposed to learn in order to actually learn the skill.