Formulating and Defending Opinions: Determining Grammy's Best and Worst Dressed

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SWBAT develop a criteria for evaluating a Grammy Outfit by exploring the beliefs embedded in their judgments.

Big Idea

To support your point of view, you must have reasons and evidence (facts, details and information); to understand another person's point of view, you must be able to identify the reasons and evidence he/she provides.

Unit Introduction and Overview

Rationale for Starting With Elementary and Middle School CCSS Writing Standard

My students at PULSE are not avid readers of school-assigned texts, but they will skim articles in tabloid magazines and salacious street literature. Even though some of the texts they read are not among the CCSS Exemplars, I want them to develop a criteria for rating the texts they read based on their opinions (W.4.1 and SL.4.3) so that they can write arguments based on their preference for or their feelings against a piece of literature (W.9-10.1 and W.9-10.1b).

Over time, I want them to develop literary criticisms for the texts they read (W.9-10.1a) and (W.9-10.1b) so that they can have more ownership of the development of their personal literacy. 

To start this process, I want them to develop a criteria for evaluating poems that they will use to evaluate a poem in class. (W.4.1a and W.4.1b). I have chosen poetry as a point of entry because it is a genre of literature that most of my students feel comfortable making criticisms about since they are familiar with the contemporary spoken-word events in New York City.

I wanted to start the unit with the students being in control. So, for Lesson #1 and Lesson #2, my students will be in the driving seat. When we get to Lesson #3, I will begin to gradually infuse the literary analysis necessary for us to analyze a poem. In Lesson #4, I will have my students use their beliefs and opinions to direct the analysis, while moving the class toward looking at the aspects of literary analysis we will explore in the unit we will have the interim assessment at this point as well to evaluate how my students. 

In Lesson #5, my students and I will look at the literary analysis of a poem. In Lesson #6, we will look at using an evidence-based approach to developing a literary analysis. In Lesson #7, we will continue our literary analysis of a poem. 

I chose to give the interim assessment at the ending of Lesson #4 because I wanted to see how my students would respond to a lesson that uses their opinions to direct the analysis while focusing on literary concepts and ideas to support their opinion. Since we are merging both concepts, I wanted to see how ready they would be for poetry analysis. 

I chose to end the unit with a summative assessment (available at the end of Lesson #7),encompassing the skills we covered in the prior lessons, because I wanted to give everyone a chance to prove his or her growth throughout the unit. Sometimes, my students do not prove mastery of a concept or skill initially, but when we re-visit the concept, idea or skill at a later point, they will have a second or their opportunity to show mastery.

Standards Alignment + Backward Design

At PULSE High School, it has been a challenge for many of our students to identify logical reasons for the judgments they make about themselves and others, while reading, writing, listening or speaking.  Under CCSS, this skill is first introduced in the 2nd Grade RI.2.1 and RL.2.1

Looking at this strands across grade levels, I can see the connection between being able to make judgments in Grade 2 (answering the why question) and making inferences in Grade 4 RI.4.1 and RL.4.1). From Grade 4 to Grade 9, the nature of making inferences increases in complexity, but the core skill has been established at a previous grade level.

Most of our students at PULSE, have not been exposed to many aspects of CCSS because the curriculum was loosely implemented four years ago in New York State, and has only been mandatory for two years. This means most of my students have had no exposure to the elementary grade levels of CCSS. Therefore, I must ensure that those skills are addressed in my units while striving to fulfill the Grade 9 skills.

I feel embedding beliefs in our poetry unit will be an excellent way to get my students to explore their opinions, and to see how their beliefs impact the judgments they make. We are focusing on seeing how beliefs shape opinions because I want my students to be able to see the validity of their opinions, and for them to see how their values shape their opinions.(Lesson #1 - Lesson #3)

Getting my students comfortable with the idea of providing their opinion on issues, whether of a casual or serious nature, will provide them with the comfort level to take a position on a text-based issue in a future lesson. So, even though our lesson today will focus on Grammy attire which will neither save the planet or end global warming, we can still see the importance of being able to successfully establish an opinion and to provide evidence to support it.

Finally, I want my students to assess their progress as they develop belief-based opinions. To that end, our interim assessment will focus on providing text-based evidence to support a belief-based opinion. This task is aligned to (W.6.1a) which focuses on introducing a claim with organized reasons and evidence and (W.6.1b) which focuses on supporting a claim with clear reasons and evidence, using credible resources and demonstrating understanding of the topic/text. The following rubric will be used to assess this assignment. (Lesson #4)

Our summative assessment for this unit will focus on writing theme-based opinions supported by text-based evidence. The theme-based opinions is a deviation from the belief-based opinions, but it is a necessary step to move my students toward fulfilling the Grade 9 CCSS Writing Standards: (W.9-10.1a) focuses on introducing a balanced argument - position, claims, counterposition and counterclaim; (W.9-10.1b) focuses on develop a claim using relevant text-based evidence and supports. The following rubric will be used to assess this assignment. (Lesson #9)


Lesson Prep/Homework

I will assign this section of the lesson  for homework the night before and collect it at the beginning of the next lesson so that we can review dress code as a class if necessary.  Giving this assignment as a homework activity gives my students time to think about the assignment and to provide a thoughtful response.

I am choosing to focus on dress code and clothing today because my students see themselves as trendsetters in fashion. New York City is considered a fashion haven, and many New-York-based designers who showcase their collections at Fashion Week yearly have touted NYC's urban youth as design inspirations.  Consequently, my students see themselves as change agents when it comes to fashion and so gleefully express their varying personalities in their choice of clothing or hairstyles.

This activity could be adapted to focus on whether they feel current companies in the media have effective logos. In addition, this activity could stretch further to having the students identify criteria they feel should be a part of an effective company logo. You may suggest brands for students to consider such as Pepsi, Coca Cola, Nike, Puma, Adidas, Yankees, Mets, Spurs, Heats, Broncos and Giants. 

I have chosen a journal entry which requires them to make judgments because I want them to start practicing the skills we will be covering in the next-day's lesson. This task is aligned with CCSS W.4.1 because my students will be forming opinions and supporting their point of view with reason and information. Giving my students this task ahead of time helps me to get a better sense of their on-the-spot readiness for the lesson. So, having my homework assignments closely linked to the next-day's lesson is helpful.

Journal Entry: What is the appropriate dress code for important events like weddings, graduations or funerals?Do the  people you know dress appropriately for these occasions? If YES, say WHY? If NO, say WHY NOT?

  • Answer these questions to the best of your ability
  • Write your answer in a paragraph (5-7 sentences)


This is a sample of a Journal Entry Response done in class prior to the Warmup and Share.

Review Homework + Warmup

25 minutes

Popular culture is a great way to stimulate my student's interest and to connect them to the purpose of our lesson. Therefore, I use a concrete idea to get my students connected to the larger context of the lesson. My students will be judging the best/worst dressed outfit of three taken from the 2013 Grammy's. 

I have chosen to focus on fashion because my students and I are an active part of New York City's cultural scene. As urban youth, they influence the direction of many fashion collections, and have seen their peers change the face of fashion on a yearly basis. So, they are conscious of the clothing they wear, their hairstyles, shoes and accessories.

This activity could be adapted to focus on competing companies' logos and products: Pepsi vs. Coca Cola; Nike vs. Puma/Adidas; Yankees vs. Mets; Spurs vs. Heats; Broncos vs. Giants, etc.

Before I start today's lesson, I will review the homework with the class so that they will get a sense of how the class as a whole sees dress code for special occasions (W.4.1). For those students who were absent when I gave the homework, I will ensure they are aware of the dress code for the Grammy's as well sharing (SL.4.3) makes the activity accessible to all students. They can listen as their peers share their homework assignments or record a quickwrite for themselves based on the journal entry.

For students who are still struggling to connect, I will ask them why men wear bow ties or tuxedos and women wear long dresses, pearls, rhinestones or diamonds to special places, but not to the supermarket? This will get them thinking about those special events in their lives that are considered formal events. 

Before I introduce the Grammy pictures, I will tell the students that we will be looking at two important skills today: making judgments and developing a criteria or rationale for our judgments. Then, I will ask them what do they think is the meaning of the words JUDGMENT and CRITERIA, and as a class we brainstorm definitions for the two terms. Then, I will use the students' responses to create  definitions for JUDGMENT and CRITERIA.

I will ask them to determine who wore the best Grammy outfit after looking at a group of pictures and to give their reasons for choosing this picture. Some of my students may see them as terrible outfits, so I advise them to do the following:

1. Which outfit do you believe is the best or the worst? (W.4.1)

2. Why do you believe it is the best or the worst outfit? Give your reasons (W.4.1)

Since this is a longer session for the Warmup than is normally expected, I will walk around the room to check student progress and to ensure everyone is on task. I will make myself available to give directions and to get a quick on-the-spot assessment of how the students are doing with the lesson.

 Best Dressed

Share + Engagement

25 minutes

Criteria's Effect on Student Response:

Students will share their opinions about the best/worst outfit (SL.4.3). I will elicit student responses and charts their ideas focusing on identifying the beliefs in their opinions.

This is a sample of student response shared with the class. We included the student's criteria in the Class Criteria. This is an addition to the sample written after we developed the class criteria.

I am using the student response to create the Class Criteria because most of my students do not readily recognize the beliefs embedded in their reasons. So, I have to explicitly point it out to them.

I ask my students to develop a criteria for evaluating outfits worn by celebrities at the Grammy's so that they can get into the habit of looking at how their judgments are influenced by unstated beliefs. 


25 minutes

Students will work in pairs or groups. They will use the Class Criteria they created to write a paragraph (W.4.1) explaining their reasons for selecting this outfit as the Best/Worst Grammy Outfit. I will walk around to see how they are doing and to answer any questions they may have about the criteria they are using to evaluate the best/worst dressed. I will be available to observe how each group completes the written analysis as well. 

Student responses included the following: Pair Student Analysis Paragraph #1, Pair Student Analysis Paragraph #2, Group Student Analysis Paragraph #1 and Group Student Analysis Paragraph #2.


Closure + Homework

5 minutes

Students will check their written critique (W.4.1) to see if it includes 1-2 sentences about each criteria they selected for their focus. They ensure each member of the pair or group has an individual copy of the paragraph to submit at the  end of the class.

I mandate that everyone copies the group paragraph because most students feel it is the duty of the designated writer or recorder of the pair or group, and therefore they are not responsible for recording any thoughts or ideas during the group work/application time period. Requesting everyone to hand in a written paragraph (in his or her own handwriting) erases the misconception.

For homework, I will have the students reflect on the class maxim by writing down their thoughts about it. Is the maxim always true? If Yes, Why is it always true? If No, Why is it not always true? This gives us another opportunity to present our opinions about a belief, and another opportunity for us to assess our beliefs.  

In addition, I will have my students visit a debate online on a current topic affecting high-school students: Should schools have dress codes? They will choose three student responses on the YES and NO sides and provide evidence (facts, details and examples) to support the position from these responses This is aligned to W.4.1. 

I have chosen to use short debate responses for this activity because the text is accessible. Therefore, I can assess their understanding of the skill before assigning more challenging text. This is aligned to RI.4.1