This is a two (or three) day lesson that really helps students lay out HOW to write a text-based opinion. Lots of times, especially in kindergarten, students put a lot of personal schema into their writing and it bogs the good writing down. With this lesson, students will see a good format for laying out an opinion in response to a text that will help them plan their writing! With the implementation of Common Core, students will experience a lot of fiction and non-fiction and students must know how to go back into the text to find their information! With that being said, I think it is really important that we provide students with a good strategy for writing a text-based opinion because it is something students will continue to have to do throughout their school experience.
Here is why I love to have my students working on supporting opinions with text evidence!
This lesson begins in the whole group, so students will be seated in front of me on the carpet.
We will be working with a story that we have already read one time- this is because I want the students to be familiar with the story; they can form an opinion much more capably when they have had thought-forming time to do so.
For this lesson, I used the fable, The Lion and the Mouse.
Set the purpose: "Today, we are going to be re-reading our story, The Lion and the Mouse. We are going to re-read it to listen for which character we think is the best." (wait time) "Now, notice that I said we are going to LISTEN... we have to listen to the words in the book to determine which character was the best. So, you will need to turn your ears on while I read." (wait time)
"After we read the story, we are going to write which character we think is the best and we are going to have to give two reasons from the story that support our choice. This is why it is so important to listen- we are going to have to use information from the story in our writing!"
At this point, I will read The Lion and the Mouse to my students. I might pause for think alouds at certain points in the story to point out that specific character traits. I like to point out to students that the lion was very rude, then selfish, but he did indeed learn his lesson; meanwhile, I like to point out that the mouse was scared, but then he was helpful and brave as well.
After reading the story, I like to show students my expectations for their assignment. I will draw a larger version of the students' writing sheet and model for them how I would do my paper.
*Note, I do not choose one character from this story here because I do not want students copying my thinking or my word usage. So, I will use a character from a familiar story, such as Cinderella.
As I go through my model, I will write while explaining.
"I am going to use the story of Cinderella for my example. Now, of course you will be using The Lion and the Mouse as your story, but I am going to use Cinderella just to show you what I am thinking."
"Here, I am going to give my opinion. I state my opinion at the top because it is going to be my first sentence when I end up writing on my writing paper. So, my opinion has to be based on information from the story," (wait time) "and it has to tell who was the best character." (wait time) "I think that Prince Charming was the best character. Since I think he was the best, I am going to write that here in my box at the top."
I will write down, I think that Prince Charming is the best character.
"Now that I have my opinion sentence written at the top, I can support my opinion in the boxes at the bottom." (wait time) "Now, these boxes at the bottom are what I am going to use to tell you WHY I decided that Prince Charming was the best character." (wait time) "Hmmmm... Now I have to remember that I MUST USE INFORMATION FROM THE STORY." (wait time) "Did the story say that he was tall?" (wait time) "No, it didn't, so I cannot tell you that one of the reasons he was the best is because he was tall... I have to think of something else..." (wait time) "Hmmmm... now the story hinted that he was nice.... I like that... I like that about his character." (wait time) "I can put in one of these boxes that Prince Charming was nice."
I will write down, Prince Charming was nice.
"Okay, great. I have one reason from the story why I thought Prince Charming was the best. Now, I have to think of another one. Hmmm... maybe I can think about him in the story and make an inference. Remember: an inference is an conclusion that I can assume from evidence." (wait time) "The story is my evidence... so I can use information ONLY from the story to help me create another idea about Prince Charming. Let's see.... Hmmmm... He was looking for a good woman... he went on a search... he kept asking people.... he didn't quit... and finally he found the perfect girl, Cinderella." (wait time) "Well... that makes him smart... but also it shows me that he didn't give up... he persevered. I like that word! I am going to use that. I am going to say that another reason I like Prince Charming is because he persevered."
I will write down, Prince Charming persevered.
"Well now I have all of my boxes filled."
I will point at the boxes as I review my information.
"First, I stated my opinion. I said that Prince Charming was the best character." (wait time)
"Then, I supported my opinion with two reasons from the story. First, I said that Prince Charming was nice." (wait time) "I also said that Prince Charming persevered." (wait time) "So, when you look at this, you can easily see my opinion and my two reasons for my opinion!" (wait time) "I like to look at it this way because it will help me form my writing very easily tomorrow!"
I will do this portion of the lesson in small groups. Since this is the first time students will be using this format, I want to make sure they understand what to write, where to write and why to write certain things.
I will go through this structured format sheet with groups that are leveled by ability.
With my beyond level group, I will explain the process, referring to my example; I will then let them fill out their papers independently.
With my on-level group, I will explain the process, referring to my example; I will then have students fill out their papers in front of me, so I can guide them where needed.
With my approaching level group, I will explain the process in two ways, referring to my example; I will then help students one-on-one to fill out their papers so I can guide them, direct them and help them where needed.
Here, in images of Student 1 structuring her writing and Student 2 structuring her writing, you can see students' first step that was completed with guided practice.
This portion of the lesson will be completed on the second day.
During day one, students will have listened to me re-read the story, they will have watched me explain the structure of the writing sheet and they will have completed their own structure writing sheet. I will have saved their sheets from the previous day to use in today's lesson.
On this day, students will simply use their structured writing pages from yesterday and transfer their ideas to a formal writing sheet.
I will model moving my information over, one piece at a time.
I will show students the following:
"First, I need to state my opinion. So, I know that my opinion was in the first box." (wait time) "My opinion was that Prince Charming was the best. The first thing I will write is, Prince Charming was the best character." (wait time) "Now that I have my opinion, I can give my two reasons. I wrote in one of my boxes that Prince Charming was nice." (wait time) "So, I can write, He was nice." (wait time) "Now, in my other box, I said that Prince Charming persevered." (wait time) "I think I would like to start my sentence differently, so I won't start it with he..." (wait time) "Hmmm... I think I could start my sentence with also, since this is an additional idea." (wait time) "I can write, Also, Prince Charming persevered." (wait time) "Now, I have all of my information written down. Let me go back and re-read it to check."
I will re-read my new, formal writing paper. "I think Prince Charming was the best character. He was nice. Also, Prince Charming persevered." (wait time)
"Wow, I think that I did a great job telling why I thought he was the best character, based on the story!"
Students will be expected to copy their information over in a similar fashion.
Here, you can see what it looked like when Student 1 transferred her writing and when Student 2 transferred her writing. It is obvious that students used their planning sheets from the previous lesson (in the section above) to create these final works.
I will look at students' structured format writing AND students' formal writing paper together. I will be looking to see that, 1) students attempted both assignments, 2) students copied their information from the structured format to the final product paper, and 3) students really gave an opinion as well as two text-based reasons to support it.
Since this is the first assignment of this kind, I will not be too strict; however, I will expect students to, at a minimum, state their opinion well (in a complete sentence) and attempt to provide a solid text-based reason to support their opinion.
Based on assessing this, I will pull students for re-teaching and use the same assignment (the same story and same structured format) if needed.
I love doing this structured assignment because, eventually, students will think of the format in their heads and will automatically be able to provide two text-based reasons to support their opinion.
There are so many ways to use this assignment in daily lessons. I like to give students this format when they are in listening center so they can respond to their story they heard. I also like to give students this format for homework to practice responding to books that they read with their parents. Finally, I like to take this format and let one student complete each part in response to a story we read in small group and come up with a group paper that they can copy! There are so many choices here!