To begin todays lesson, I meet my students on the rug and begin a conversation about the two texts we’ve read this week: So You Want to Be President by Judith St. George and John, Paul, George, & Ben by Lane Smith. We discuss for a moment which book we liked the most and why, and just enjoy talking about books for a bit together. The students in my class determine that they really liked both books. Their main support for this was that both books discussed learning about presidents, which might not have been the most exciting topic, but they think that both authors made the topic really fun because they both added a sense of humor to the text. It’s so fun to discuss texts with third graders!
Today, for our work together, we’re going to write about how these two texts are similar and different. In order to do this, I’m going to utilize a strategy that our school uses to teach students to write complete responses to prompts. To help my students, I’ve color coded each step, and so I share this with them now through an anchor chart:
Start It Out (Orange): This is our introductory sentence and restates the question.
Cite Evidence (Blue): This is our first set of evidence that is taken from the text.
Your Thinking (Green): This is where we can make our first comment on what we now know, or learned, or realized after reading the text.
Cite Evidence (Blue): This is our second set of evidence that is taken from the text.
Your Thinking (Green): This is where we can make a second comment on what we now know, or learned, or realized after reading the text.
Wrap It Up (Black): This is our closing sentence and should remind the reader what we were writing about in this writing.
I share this format with the students through the anchor chart and I’ve also included an example of a comparison/contrast paragraph below the format as well. We read through the example to see how this format will help us organize our writing.
After we’ve looked through how this format works, I explain to the students that using this format will help show our thinking through our writing. Something important I want the students to notice is the balance between what we pulled out of the text and what we’re adding to show our own thinking. This paragraph isn’t only about what the text said, but it also isn’t only what we think. It’s a combination of both, and is balanced, and this way, the reader will see that we understood the text, but that we have thoughts to add as well. Including both produces a nice, balanced writing piece.
Now we’re ready to get writing, so students head back to their seats and take out the following: a blank piece of paper, their Venn diagrams and notes from our two texts, and four colored pencils: orange, blue, green, and black. I’m asking students to write in colored pencil today so that they can see that they’ve included all components of the organizational structure in their writing. (The kids get a kick out of this, too! Really? I’m letting them write in colored pencil?)
Since this is a new technique we’re trying out today, I’m going to be allowing a few options for my students in their writing. First, I’m going to be writing on the board and modeling each step of the structure, but with the students’ support and guidance. Through questioning, I’m going allow the students to help guide my writing, and I will model that writing on our Smart Board. This will give students who need support with this new structure the support they need and a “practice” of writing using this structure. But secondly, I have some students that will be ready to take off with their own ideas and supports, and I don’t want to stifle that readiness, so I’m going let those students make their own choices in writing today as well. In order to offer those supports, I simply tell students that today, I’ll be modeling on the board and they can write what I’m writing in order to practice today. However, if you decide you have a different piece of evidence you’d like to cite, or if you want to put in your own ideas today, please do so!
And then we begin writing! We follow each step and all along the way, I ask the students to help me. Some questions I ask the students include:
-What is the question/prompt asking me?
-What words can I use from the question/prompt to start my first sentence?
-What evidence do we think is most important from the text to answer the question?
-How do you know that this piece of evidence answers the question/prompt?
-Did that piece of evidence help you learn, realize, or find something new?
-What other evidence would also be pretty important from the text to answer the question?
-How do you know that his piece of evidence answer the question/prompt?
-How can we close up our writing and remind the reader what our writing was about?
Once we are all finished writing, I tell the students that they just did a great job with using this new organizational structure today! I show the students how nicely our writing answers the question by rereading our work from the Smart Board today! I also invite reading from any students who would like to read their writing today as well! After hearing a few students who wanted to share, I again compliment our class on a job well done finding evidence and supporting the evidence with our thinking in a nice, balanced writing piece today. We’ll practice using this format again in the future, as it lends itself to answering many different types of prompts.