Common Core Connection and Introduction
This lesson makes learning relevant to me and my class. We have a new principal this year and the dress code for the teachers has changed. We now cannot wear shirts without a collar. So, dress code is on my mind. But, I explain that when students get to the sixth grade they will have a dress code. Some of their siblings already do have to comply to the dress code. We are going to write an opinion letter to our Superintendent sharing our opinion of the dress code. The guided practice is about the teacher dress code, but students write their independent work about the student dress code. In this way, I am able to gradually release the task: students get practice writing about one topic with support from me, and then they get to write more independently on a similarly structured, but fresh, topic.
With the Common Core Standard W.1.1, students need to be able to write an opinion piece where they introduce the topic or name the book they are writing about, state an opinion, supply reason for the opinion, and provide some sense of closure.
I like to give my students writing topics that are based on issues that feel relevant to them. I think that this makes the learning more motivating and engaging. I find that, with topics they care about, the class is more likely to do their very best.
I show the lesson image of the students in their uniforms. Some students may not know what the word uniform means so I explain it and ask the class to discuss how they would feel if they had to wear a uniform everyday to school. I allow one student to share and explain their reasoning. This activates my students thinking so they can begin evaluating the idea. I explain that I have a dress code as the teacher, and, when they enter sixth grade, they will have a dress code as well. I explain the details of the dress code and the reasoning that some professionals believe to support dress codes.
I share with the class that today we are going to write an opinion letter to share our opinion of the teacher dress code and then the students are going to write their own opinion letter about the student dress code. Then, I ask the class to chant the goal three times to focus the class on the skill we are learning. The lesson goal is: I can write a letter expressing my opinion.
The students are writing a letter to the Superintendent of our school system expressing their opinion of the dress code. This has been a big issue in our town, so I think it is a nice opportunity to teach students how to express their opinion respectfully to a real world issue. Writing to our local leader of the schools really makes the lesson relevant and engages my students.
As we begin this section, I move students to their desks, and I call on different students to tell me what to write first in a letter. We have been engaging in letter writing throughout this unit, so students already have a good idea of how to start. After a student tells me, I add the date and greeting. I ask the student who responded to tell me why we start a letter that way, and, if the person cannot tell me why, I ask the class to discuss with their partner why and then usually everyone knows why. This is one example of how peer collaboration supports learning in my classroom. I think my students seem to learn more and remember more when their peers tell them the information.
Then, I ask partners to discuss what the first sentence should say. We decide that we should introduce the letter by stating our opinion. Again, I ask why. A volunteer will share their thoughts and explain why. I think allowing discussion engages everyone in thinking about the answer. I write the introductory or topic sentence which tells our opinion.
Then students discuss three reasons that support or do not support the dress code (depending on what opinion your class wants to express). I call on three different students to share their reasoning behind their position toward dress code. I write the responses on the board.
Last, students have to discuss a closing sentence. One volunteer shares and I write the response. I ask students to agree or disagree and provide their reasoning or explain why. Students then tell me what to write for the closing of the letter. I remind them that the closing sentence should restate the topic sentence and connect to the details. I ask them to help me with punctuation and capitalization.
Here is a picture of the Board when we were done.
Students work at their seats to create their own letter to the Superintendent about why they support or do not support the dress code. The letter must contain all the conventions of a letter (date, greeting, closing, etc.), an introductory sentence that states their opionion, three reasons, and a closing sentence.
Some questions I ask as I walk around and monitor the student's progress are:
Students move to the center tables to read their work to their partner. Students will give their peers feedback that will help them revise and evaluate their work. I think evaluating and giving academic feedback can be challenging for first graders so I offer my help as students share their comments. I have modeled how to give feedback in almost every student reflection lesson I have taught this year in hopes that my students will learn to evaluate each others work.
I call on two or three students to read their work.
I ask for students to provide academic feedback (Peer Evaluation) to their peers. I add to what the students say and often ask questions to clarify understanding.
In the closing I ash the students to tell their partner one thing they learned about writing an opinion letter and one thing they want to learn. I then share what I heard in their discussion. Next, I ask for a volunteer to share or add to what I said. I am creating discussion which support speaking and listening.
Last, I remind the class of the lesson goal and ask them to tell their partner. We say, "I can write a letter expressing my opinion."