One of my favorite things about teaching ELA is taking advantage of interesting current events. I have to admit that I am not a big football fan, so I wasn't really paying attention to Sunday's Superbowl game. I did start to tune in when Richard Sherman expressed his opinion to a news reporter.
Since so many of my students this year are avid football fans, I will start by asking for a volunteer to explain what happened at the end of yesterday's game. What was the play like? Who was involved? Why was this an important play and game?
Once the students know the back story, I will show them a taped interviews with Richard Sherman after the NFC championship game.
Although this is a lesson over a specific event, you can use this same format with any current event. I feel that it is very important to hook students into lessons. It keeps them interested and increases comprehension because they are curious.
Once students have seen the videos, I will ask them what the fuss is all about. Why are people getting upset about his interviews?
Students will then answer a question in their reading notebooks.
Do you agree with the way Richard Sherman handled his post game interview? Why or why not?
Now, it is time for students to read an interesting view point on Richard Sherman's interviews. I found this article called "What Richard Sherman Taught us about America." This article basically supports Richard Sherman as an outstanding person and one who overcame adversity. The author makes some interesting claims, so I decided to have my students read the text searching for these claims. As they read, they will highlight any claim that the author makes.
My students have been learning to write claims, but finding another author's claim can be tricky. To help, I'll remind students that a claim is like an opinion that someone is asserting.
I will model this for a couple of paragraphs while I think aloud with the kids asking questions like, "Is this the author's opinion or is he just presenting the facts?"
Next, I'll have the students finish up reading the claims and highlighting them alone or with a partner.
Once students highlight the claims, I'll have them return to their table groups of 3 or 4. I will have them share out. When they give me a valid claim, I will write in on a sentence strip.
Now, I'll give each group one of the claims they've given me. Their task is to look back through the article, and find evidence that supports their claim. I'll tell them that they are trying to find proof for their claim not from their own ideas but just from the text.
There are a couple of claims in the text that can be supported with one or maybe two supporting details, but most of the claims are unsupported. I expect the students to struggle and probably get frustrated because for most of the claims the author makes, there is virtually no evidence to back it up.
I will let them struggle for a bit, then ask, "Why do you think some groups are having trouble finding evidence?"
After some discussion of different reasons, I expect someone to say that there really wasn't any evidence that supported the claim.
We will discuss the effect of making a claim without evidence. I'll ask, "What does this tell you about the writer's position or the validity of the claim he is making?" "Would you choose this article if you were writing a report on Richard Sherman? Why or why not?"
We will talk about the importance of supporting an opinion, if you would like others to consider it.
This lesson can be enacted with any opinion piece, and I think that it is valuable for students to see claims without evidence along with well supported ones.