Kids LOVE to give their opinions. What better way to prepare a lesson on W.5.1 which is writing opinion pieces using reasons and information? A significant part of the equation is picking a topic that interests them.
When the kids come in the classroom in the morning, they find paper on their desks. On the Smart Board is written the title, "Global Issues," instructing them to write their own top ten. While waiting for the morning announcements to begin, they reflect about different concerns of the world (First list of ten global concerns).
We come back to their lists after announcements conclude, and I ask volunteers to share an idea on the Smart Board (Contributing to Global Issues List). Although I list numbers from one to ten, we easily filled fifteen slots, and can keep going as long as desired (Discussing the List).
With the list on the Smart Board, even the kids who had trouble coming up with an original ten now have Global Issues in front of them to write down. I pass out a Global Issues worksheet for them to whittle their from ten to just five. In one column they write the issue, and in the other, ideas of what can be done to solve it. They can use issues from their own list, or on the Smart Board and put in order of importance as they see them.
Their next task is to write a solution for each of the issues they choose (Solution Suggestions). This doesn't take very long, but if there are a few stragglers, allow them to leave the column blank because they may think of something in the next part.
It's time for them to move around the classroom, and share ideas with one another by filling in "solutions" on other classmates' papers (List of Five with Suggestions). There is great discussion and they enjoy the opportunity to be out of their seats, talking (Spreading out the Suggestions). By the end, each issue should have at least three "solutions" in the column (Many great ideas).
They return to their seats, and I have them look back at the Smart Board. We do a quick class survey to determine what the five greatest Global Issues are, according to our class. I ask the kids to raise their hands for each of the five on their current list, and this is why the numbers total over the normal class size.
After I've written the number of hands after each Global Issue, we create our classroom Top Five, with the first one listed has the highest number of votes in the class. Top Five Global Issues to the 5th graders In my class it went:
Lack of Clean Water 15 votes; World Hunger 14; Cancer 13; Child Abuse 13; Racism 13 votes.
With their top five issues clearly written with suggestions on how to help the problem, they choose an issue and begin writing their opinion essay. Sometimes they really have difficulty narrowing their list down to the number one. I support them by suggesting that instead of selecting their number one, they should eliminate the three least important. With only two issues remaining, they usually decide easily.
The Global Issues they put on their personal lists are in order of importance to the student, (Essay Writing) but I tell them to choose the issue that they'd like to write about for the Global Issue Essay. They should look at the solutions that we generated and decide which of the issues they can write about naturally. (Putting Global Issues in the Forefront).
They've worked hard from the beginning of this lesson to the end, and can't wait to read their opinion essays (Discussing the issues). I'm impressed with how thoughtful these essays are, which indicates their level of seriousness, (What I think about...) and this mature approach is evident with their writing. I evaluate using the Six Traits of Writing concentrating on Ideas and Content, Voice, Word Choice, and Organization.
By this time in the year, they are comfortable with presenting in front of their classmates, (Essay on Homelessness) and I appreciate how responsive the kids are with one another as they share their opinion essays. Their speaking and listening skills are improving with each day!