For this lesson the students literally walk into the classroom and go to work.
My students are used to making journal entries of one kind or another for morning work. For example one day the students will come in and find a Cognitively Guided Instruction (CGI) problem on the board. For example, “Mrs. Clapp had for red flowers and five yellow flowers. How many flowers did she have in all?” They will need to get their math journal and work towards solving the problem using pictures, numbers and words.
Another day the students will come in and see a directive on the rolling cart. The students are told to look at the rolling cart and see if they can read the instruction there. Once they have decoded the text and successfully figured out what is being asked of them, they will need to get their science journal and begin to discuss with their peers where and how they are going to get the information they need. For my middle low and low reading level students I just read the morning work direction straight to them. The directive may ask the students to draw and label four things that can be recycled, or animals that live in the Arctic, or even four things in the classroom that are solid, etc.
Today the students come in and find a two sight word sentence prompts by the language arts journals. The student will need to get out their Language Arts journal, copy the prompt and then work to complete it.
The reason I have the prompts set out this way is because I want the students to formulate their own opinion without too much input from myself or the other students. I like to see what the student's gut reaction is to the prompts which means it is more likely to be their true opinion.
The students look at the two sentences and decide which they like better – the light or the dark.
The reason I have the students decide about whether they like the light or the dark, is because later on in the morning we will be reading a book about shadows - What Makes a Shadow?. The opinion piece of writing the students are working on now will help introduce them to the topic and get them thinking about light in general. This book will be used to introduce the students to the idea that light makes shadows and the dark is a shadow.
For now, students must first decide which prompt better reflects their opinion.
Once they have selected their sentence strip they must complete the prompt which helps formulate their opinion and then back it up with a reason.
After they have completed the writing piece of this assignment, the students then have to support their sentence with an illustration. The illustration must include details which are clear for the reader.
As soon as the student has checked to make sure they have done everything to the best of their ability, they are to bring their work over to me. First the student will read their opinion to me and then we will go over their work together.
“Good morning. Today your morning work is to select a sentence prompt which matches whether you like the dark or the light. Once you have selected your sentence prompt you will need to complete it by giving me a reason why you like the light or the dark. Remember your sentence must start with an uppercase letter, there should be spaces between your words and your sentence will need some kind of punctuation mark to make it complete. After you have finished your writing you will need to draw a detailed illustration which supports your sentence.”
The reason I ask the students to back up their sentence prompt with an explanation is so they practice giving reasons why they make the particular choices they make. Please refer to "The Importance of Opinions" video in the introduction section.
“When you feel you have done everything you have been asked to do, please bring your journal to me and we will go over your work together.”
I allowed the students 20 minutes to work on this activity. Set a visual timer and remind the students to look at the timer so they will use their time wisely.
When the time is up I blow two short blasts on my whistle and use the “Stop, look listen” technique mentioned above. “When I say go, I would like you to clean up your space remembering to take care of our things, push in your chair, and use walking feet to go and take a spot on your dot.”
Students know to put completed work in the finished work bin. Any work that is not completed goes into the under construction bin and can be completed throughout the day whenever the student finds he/she has spare time or it will be completed during free choice center time.
Once the students are seated I tell them their exit slip for today to go and do their morning job is to tell me whether they like the dark or the light.
“I am going to use the fair sticks to select students names. When I pull out your name you need to tell me your opinion on which one is better – light or dark. Once you have told me your opinion you will be able to go ahead and do your morning job.”
Once a student has told me his/her opinion, they are able to go ahead and do his/her classroom morning job.
For this assignment I check the student’s journal entries, discuss with them the choices they made and what resources they used – a spaceman for spacing between words, the word wall for sight words, books for vocabulary words, etc.
I have the students read their work to me and we will go over whether their sentence makes sense or not. If there are any corrections to be made, I ask the student to go back to their seat, make the corrections and then bring the work back to me for a re-check.
You can see in student sample number one the student did not meet all of the assignment requirements. The student had selected the sentence prompt which best represented their opinion, but there was no illustration, there was no punctuation and most importantly the explanation part of the sentence did not make sense. We discussed the students work and they went back to their seat to correct the work and include the necessary assignment pieces.
When the student brought the work back fro recheck we can see they added the illustration and the correct ending punctuation. However, they still had not completely corrected the explanation part of the sentence. They had started to write the sight word my, but forgot the initial sound. We worked on this word together. We also discussed the lack of adequate spacing between words and I suggested the student use the "spaceman" tool next time to help. I pointed out how a strong sentence helps support an opinion rather than a sentence which is hard to understand. The student promised to work on and improve their sentences in future journal entries.
Once the work meets all of the requirements I put a check mark or a smiley face on their journal entry and the student then place’s the journal back in the correct location.
As the students complete their work I have them go and find other students who are done and share their opinion work. I highly encourage the students to explain and defend their choice; just like they did with me. The more times the students share and explain their work, the more practice they have at developing the skill of rationalizing their point of view. It is important that students learn how to share their point if view in a non-confrontational way so it is more likely to be accepted by the audience.