This lesson serves as a gap between students writing their own facts and opinions about a topic and finding other people's facts and opinions in a text. It seems with my students, that this bridge is necessary either for practice or review. I must say again, that even though there is no direct standard for fact and opinion in the Common Core, there are gaps we as teachers must fill and this is one of them.
So, when the students enter the room, they will find large sheets of butcher paper with colored reproductions of fine art pieces. I could have had my students write facts and opinions about anything under the sun- favorite food, who has the best french fries, their teacher- literally anything. While all of those are legitimate exercises, I wanted something more. I wanted my students to form opinions and write facts that they had to think about. Fine art pieces served that purpose.
I chose fine art pieces that are not well known (not that my kiddos are art critics) but I want the art to be totally unfamiliar, BUT any fine art images will work. I chose Coal by Thomas Hart Benton (1930), Bright Countryside by Chen Junde (1985), Dwellings by Paul Sierra, 1990 and Music from the Blue House by Robin Chandler (1990).
Feel free to choose local artists, pieces that represent your area or even pieces that tie in with other concepts you're studying. The sky is the limit here.
When my students see the butcher paper with the pictures, they immediately know they're in for something fun but we have to review first. I ask the students to share with their face partners the definition of a fact. The face partner then needs to verify the answer or coach the partner to the correct answer. We switch roles and then the opposite face partner then needs to give the definition of an opinion and the other partner needs to verify or coach.
I like to have the students report out after a share so I know where their thinking is. Usually I have the chosen student report what the partner says to promote good listening and accountability for both partners.
Satisfied with the definition discussion, it is time to move on to the directions for the activity.
I am going to allow students to choose a partner for the activity part of the lesson, but I want to give the explanation first. I know that once I let students partner up and move to a painting, they will stop listening to me!!
I tell the students that today they will be writing facts and opinions about pieces of art. Some of my kiddos who get excited about everything let out an "oooohhhh", while my more skeptical ones sit back to hear more. I let them know that this activity is to review writing facts and opinions of their own and that we need to be able to do that before we go finding them in texts.
I ask the students to look around the room and notice the butcher paper and the paintings. I tell them that at each butcher paper there is a stack of post it notes. Their instructions are to write one fact and one opinion at every painting. They must remember to put their name on their post it note. We don't want "naked" post it notes!! (Why are there snickers every time I say the word "naked"!!)
My students are familiar with many forms of partnering up but I like to throw a curve ball every now and then to keep them on their toes. My goal is to let each student have at least one person they want to work with in their group of four so we begin with Stand Up Hands Up Pair Up (Kagan and Kagan, 2009).
I ask the students to stand and push in their chairs. Their next instruction is to make eye contact with the person they want to be partners with. I make sure to remind them that if the person isn't making eye contact with them then that's not their partner. I have the students point to their partner and again, if they point to a person and the person doesn't point back then it's not their partner. Then the students walk to their partner. Any person without a partner is to come to me.
A note here: Having the students make eye contact and point to their intended partner takes away the wandering that happens when teachers tell students to find a partner.
Once I have students partnered, I bring around a bag with colored chips that correspond to the colors of butcher paper I have hanging. Students will draw a color and report to that color paper.
After students draw their starting spots, they move to the appropriate color butcher paper, grab their post it notes and begin to form some opinions and write some facts. I give each about five minutes per rotation. After about 5 minutes or so (watching the students for readiness), I have them move clockwise to the next station where they repeat. This continues until each student has visited each painting.
When they arrive "home", the groups use a marker to divide their butcher paper into two parts and label one part fact and one part opinion. They then sort their post it notes into the two columns. Herein lies the bridge. They've formed their own and now they need to analyze someone else's. In later lessons, we will move toward identifying facts and opinions or bias in texts.
Once all groups are done, I have them return to their seats and begin to work on the exit ticket that I have placed on their desks.
Students work alone to answer the questions on the exit ticket which will hopefully provide me with the insight I'm looking for- that I have successfully filled in the gap between understanding fact and opinion and that my students are ready to tackle the actual Common Core standards of understanding perspective and persuasive writing.
I collect the exit tickets and the students are dismissed from class with their brains a little more enlightened after analyzing some examples of fine art.