Students need to have lots of opportunities to share their opinions based on text. In kindergarten, students have a lot of personal schema that affects their opinions; so, I really try to make students back up their opinions with evidence from text as often as possible.
I make sure to read the story, Jack and the Beanstalk, two or more times before I have students create opinions- that way, they are able to remember the information they need.
Also, before I let students write down their opinions, I make sure to have them talk about their ideas with their dependable partners. This gives them a good background to form their opinions and also allows them to disagree and agree with people while adding to their bank of knowledge BEFORE writing.
***Prior to this lesson, I talk a lot about words like pretty, cool, and awesome; I tell students that those words were not in the story, so we should not be using them in our writing. After I have taught these expectations a few times, I have my students use the following rule: “If it wasn’t in the story, I can’t use it as information to back up my opinion.” Lots of times, before having my students form opinions, I will make statements such as, “Remember: we must use the information the text has given us!”
Before I have students do this activity, I take a quick opportunity to really model for students how to back up their opinion with information from the text. I do this by asking a question after reading Jack and the Beanstalk for myself, then forming my opinion and saying “because…” and turning back to the story to find reasoning. (It is important here that I do not use the same prompt for my example that I will be giving to students- I do not want students to copy my wording or opinion.)
The process that students will follow:
- Students will listen to Jack and the Beanstalk for a re-read.
(This is a repeated read because students won't be able to complete this assignment after the first read. I think it is important to provide every student with an opportunity to succeed, so I want to make sure they have the background knowledge needed (from multiple exposures to the story) to form an opinion.
- I will guide students through one or more questions that need a response.
(I will give all students one question or prompt to respond to; however, I will also give my beyond-level students more than one prompt or question because I want them to be challenged. It is important that I give students an amount of work that is appropriate for them in order to differentiate the process and the product for assessing!)
- I will listen as students share their opinions in small groups.
(Students will work to agree/disagree with others and/or to build on others’ opinions. This is important because students can work on their speaking and listening standards while also building their knowledge as a group. A lot of times, students will hear things from others that they forgot and that will, in turn, affect their writing!)
- Students will go and write down their opinion, with evidence from the text.
(It is vital that students use evidence from the text ti support their opinion. Common Core really has students working on justifying and explaining their reasoning, and the easiest way to do that is to back up your thoughts with information from the text.)
I will check students’ opinion papers for the following:
1- Students must respond to the prompt.
2- Students should have created their own opinion...
3- with text-based references.
4- Handwriting is neat.
5- Sentences have capital letters, punctuation, correctly spelled sight words and good attempts at phonetic spelling.
Here is a Video of Jack and the Beanstalk Opinions. I picked these opinion pieces up immediately following the lesson so I could assess them and send them home with notes. I think it is important that students be able to get a quick return of feedback after an assignment and that they can take home their "cute" work to share with their families!
Here, in this one student's opinion piece from Jack and the Beanstalk, I assessed the work and came up with the following scores:
The student did respond. The student did give an opinion about their thoughts; however, they did not support their opinion with a piece of information from the story. The handwriting was neat and the sentences were well-written. In the end, this student got a 4 out of 5 for this assignment.
**Sometimes, I like to have students complete a self-assessment rubric to help me grade them. This is a great thing to do when conferencing with students because it helps them see where they may not see a strength or weakness. I did not do this with Jack and the Beanstalk, but I likely will next time I teach this lesson!
**Also, I like to keep students' work in a portfolio for the end of the year. I love showing parents students' writing growth! This assignment turned out to be really cute and it was our first, real opinion piece; therefore, I wish I would've saved it for the portfolio! Next time, I will make sure to save this assignment for comparison.