The last unit before the big OAA (our state’s end of the year assessment) is always a tricky one. So much to review, such little time. This year I wanted to create a multi-genre reading and writing unit that would review essential fiction and non-fiction skills that was engaging and driven by student interest.
My students are obsessed with the “I Survived” series. Each book in this historical fiction chapter book series is written from the viewpoint of a boy who survived a major event in world history. I’ve found that these addicting little books are an excellent way to get boys (and girls!) interested in history while burning through an entire series!
Building on their frenzy, I decided to create a four week unit around the title, I Survived: The Sinking of the Titanic [Tarshis, L. (2011). I survived: The sinking of the Titanic. New York, NY: Scholastic Paperbacks]. In this unit, students will research the actual Titanic using a website I created in order to gain an understanding of the ship, its passengers, and why it remains a popular topic to this day. Second, the students will read the I Survived text as a part of book clubs while reviewing fiction skills learned throughout the year. Last, students will produce opinion writing pieces about the Titanic using information gained from their non-fiction research and fiction book study.
All week students have been working on writing their four-paragraph opinion pieces based on what they feel was the best part of our Titanic unit. I call students to the meeting area to go over today’s tasks. First, students need to go over their work one last time and check for COPS. This is the editing tool we use to correct Capitalization, Organization, Punctuation, and Spelling issues. This should be a fairly easy process as students have had work time to revise and edit each day this week. If they’ve used their partner and independent time well, then most of this should be completed already.
Once their work is done, students will write a final copy of their piece. They have several forms from which to choose and all are awaiting them on the back counter. I won’t stop the class to do this at once, I will just expect students to move on to their final work when they are ready.
Last, we will share our pieces with each other. I’ll give more details about this once everyone is ready, but there should be plenty of time to share today as our editing work should be small and it won’t take much time to recopy our four paragraphs.
I ask students for questions before setting them to work.
The time needed to complete the writing tasks will vary. I truly don’t anticipate needing much time, though because of the work completed throughout the week and due to the short length of the pieces in general. I plan for thirty minutes of independent work time and allow for more, if needed. While students complete the process, I remain at the front table available to assist students in the process.
When everyone has finished their final copies, I give each student an “opinion tag.” On each tag is one of the six opinion choices. Students receive the tag that correlates to their opinion choice. For example, if I believe that reading I Survived: The Sinking of the Titanic was the best part of our unit, I would receive a tag that said, “I Survived.” Students stick their tags on their shirts so that their opinions are easily identifiable to others.
I tell students that in a moment, they will take their papers and find someone in the room who has an opinion different from their own. Then they will take turns sharing. Rather than reading each piece in its entirety, students will tell their opinions and then read the one paragraph that provides their strongest support. This could be the second or third paragraph as both contain the reasons behind their opinions. After reading their work, I encourage students to talk about each other’s pieces. Give a compliment, tell them something you learned or hadn’t thought about before – whatever comes to mind! But I’d like to see more than just reading from the page.
Each partnership will have about five minutes to share. When the timer sounds, they will get up and find someone else with whom to share. Hopefully by the end of the sharing time, each student will have talked to at least three others with different opinions.