Saturday, February 22, 2014

Here is some great information on writing argumenttive/opinions - right in line with the common core! Enjoy! Courtesy of Choice Literacy!


The Big Fresh Newsletter from Choice Literacy
February 22, 2014 - Issue #371
Making Opinions Matter

Our opinions do not really blossom into fruition until we have expressed them to someone else.
                                                                 Mark Twain

On a recent Saturday I spent the afternoon with some teachers who constantly push my thinking and make me laugh: the perfect combination. After enjoying some ice cream in near zero degree weather, we headed to one of our favorite spots, the Cover to Cover Bookstore. We sort of take over the bookstore when we arrive, meandering into section after section of picture books to discover new treasures.
There was much talk about opinion writing. "Does anyone have a good picture book for teaching opinion writing?" was asked in one of the aisles. A long discussion ensued. What does opinion writing look like in young writers? When do we use it? What's the goal of an opinion piece? Are there strong mentors available for young writers? 
It wasn't long until I sat down to try to whittle my stack of seven picture books to three. I had assured myself I would only purchase three titles, but it wasn't going well. About that time, one of my friends asked, "What do you love about this one?" as she looked at the newest book by Jacqueline Woodson, This is a Rope. I looked at the book which had caught my attention because of its bright yellow cover, the idea that a rope might be significant enough to create a story, and the author. I glanced from the book to her and replied, "It's a great story." 
You really can't give an answer like that to a teacher, so I knew it wasn't enough. She was still looking at me and waiting. "Why?  What do you really like about it?" she persisted. I had picked it up and loved it, but I was having difficulty being specific enough. I knew she wanted to know more. She wanted me to reach deeper for a better, stronger response. Mostly, she wanted to know if I had seen something that she hadn't when I read it. 
Later that evening and still into the next day, her question stayed with me, "What do you really like about it?" The sincere interest made me move beyond my superficial response. I knew I loved Woodson's book as soon as I opened it and read the line, "This is the rope my grandmother skipped under the shade of a sweet-smelling pine."  Additionally, I was fascinated by the way the rope pulled story after story of her family into one narrative cord, tying generations together.  Despite all of these things, at the moment she asked I hadn't been able to sufficiently respond. 
It took me back to the opinion conversation we'd had in the stacks of our favorite bookstore. I wondered if kids sometimes felt like this when we were asking them to write their opinions. I realized mentor texts and examples of writing matter, but what matters most is writing about something that is genuinely important to us, to someone who genuinely cares about our opinion. The question was simple, but the expectation for response was not. These are the conversations I hope to have each day with the learners in my first-grade classroom. 
This week we look at opinion and argument writing. Plus more as always -- enjoy!
Cathy Mere
Contributor, Choice Literacy

Cathy Mere is currently teaching first grade in Hilliard (Ohio) City Schools. She is the author of  More Than Guided Reading. A trained literacy coach and former Reading Recovery teacher, Cathy leads professional development workshops and presents at state and national conferences. She blogs at Refine and Reflect.
 

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[For sneak peeks at our upcoming features, quotes and extra links,  follow Choice Literacy on Twitter: @ChoiceLiteracy or Facebook:
Shari Frost describes how shared writing can build argument skills, especially for students who are struggling:
The previous essay is a excerpt from Shari's new book, Rethinking Intervention: Supporting Struggling Readers and Writers in Grades 3-6:
Heather Rader writes about the power of Touchy Topics for Opinion/Argumentative Writing:
We share some of our favorite texts for teaching opinion writing on this Pinterest board:
  
A unit on opinion writing is one of the topics covered in Katie DiCesare's online course Designing Primary Writing Units with the Common Core in Mind which begins on March 1. The ten-day course includes three webcasts, personal response from Katie, a DVD, and many print and video resources. For details on registering, click on the link below:
 
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Thursday, February 13, 2014

As we transition into the CCSS genres, the use of mentor texts is crucial. Here are some great ideas from Choice Literacy. Enjoy!!


The Big Fresh Newsletter from Choice Literacy
February 8, 2014 - Issue #369
Keeping It Short

The measure of who we are is what we do with what we have.
                                                                 Vince Lombardi


Last week I visited a sixth-grade class led by Justin Stygles in Norway, Maine. There was lots of marvelous teaching and learning going on, but what caught my eye was a short article about a football controversy. It was the week before the Super Bowl, and the New England Patriots wouldn't be in it because of their loss to the Denver Broncos. The hot topic from the New England loss a week earlier was a statement by their coach Bill Belichick, criticizing a Denver player and accusing him of an illegal hit.
I asked Justin about the article on the wall, as well as an argument anchor chart linked to the article. Justin said, "Oh, that was a fun one. I brought in three short texts the Monday after the game - one from the Boston newspaper, one from the Denver Post, and one from an impartial sports site." He went on to explain how he had the class read all three articles to weigh in on what the correct call should be. Was the play illegal? Was the call justified? The class reviewed video of the play and studied the NFL rulebook, and students brought in other articles to support or refute claims by classmates.
"It was especially fun hearing from students who weren't football fans," said Justin. "At first, they said they wouldn't be able to make a judgment call because they didn't know the game. I told them that put them in the best position to decide, since they would be truly impartial when they read the articles, the rule, and viewed the video." They found their status was elevated because their passion for football or prejudice for a specific team wouldn't get in the way. Students argued their cases in writing, publishing them to the class blog, and Justin tweeted them out to the feeds of Boston and Denver sports sites. It was a week after the assignment, and everyone was still buzzing about it.
Justin's creativity reminded me again of the power of short texts, and the talent teachers have for tapping into student interests to make literacy come alive. Short texts are a hot topic now, because they lend themselves to close reading and strategy work across the curriculum. They are our focus this week - enjoy!
Brenda Power
Founder, Choice Literacy


Free for All


[For sneak peeks at our upcoming features, quotes and extra links,  follow Choice Literacy on Twitter: @ChoiceLiteracy or Facebook:
 
Here are three features from the archives with strategies for keeping it short.
Clare Landrigan and Tammy Mulligan share their Favorite Short Mentor Texts for Demonstration Lessons:
Who says units of study have to be long? Franki Sibberson has ideas for short units that impart big lessons to students:
  
In this video quick take, Katie Doherty explains why she finds a timer helpful in her middle school writing workshop for keeping students focused and productive:
 

The latest book flight from the LitforKids blog is on best friends, with suggestions for texts from preschool through adult readers on the topic:


  
Katie DiCesare's online course Designing Primary Writing Units with the Common Core in Mind begins early next month. The ten-day course includes three webcasts, personal response from Katie, a DVD, and many print and video resources. For details on registering, click on the link below:




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