Thursday, March 5, 2015

Students As Authors: Writers' Workshop Part III

What do writers write?! Each quarter we focus on a different type of writing (narrative, persuasive/opinion, informational, and back to narrative), and I pick a topic that is related to one of our current units of study in science or social studies for their writing pieces. Integration = Connections = DEEP LEARNING! Then when all is said and done, I offer the students activities that extend upon their writing, which often involves technology or art. 

My ultimate favorite writing unit we have done is Who Should be Mayor of Pickle City? for persuasive writing. During this writing unit, the students are simultaneously learning about the elected leaders and responsibilities of local government in social studies. To hook the students, I created two fictional mayoral candidates of the fictional Pickle City. 

Meet…Kate Ketchup and Pete Pizza

I presented each candidate’s platform to the students with Voki (a free tech tool used to make talking avatars). They loved it and thought it was hilarious. Then we summarized each candidate’s platform and discussed pros and cons for each point. Following this overview of the candidates, students decided who they wanted to side with. Who would make the best mayor for Pickle City? 

During the Planning stage, they used a flow map from Read, Write, Think (I printed the blank map) and brainstormed introductions and recorded the main points of their candidate’s platform. Then they caucused with their like-minded group through an inner/outer circle format to develop arguments for each of their points. This worked out so fabulously! They collaborated with many different people and gained great information from each other. 

After they had developed a strong argument for their candidate, they developed counterclaims. We started by having a VERY guided debate (debate inspiration from professional development by our county’s language arts supervisor). I asked the students, “Why do you think Kate Ketchup or Pete Pizza should be mayor?” A student would offer an opinion about Kate Ketchup’s platform and then another student would offer their thoughts about Pete Pizza. I continued switching between both sides recording their arguments on chart paper. 

Caucus with Like-Minded Group                                                                                                                  Guided Debate

THEN came the counterclaim. I explained that it’s important to see both sides. and that politely refuting another’s idea can make for a stronger argument. I proceeded by asking the students to look at the arguments documented on the chart paper for the opposition and think of a reason as to why it’s not a good idea and what your candidate could do that would be better. Following this direction, the students developed at least one counterclaim with the following sentence frame: 
"Some may argue that…however… "

What the students wrote was unbelievable! They had become expert persuaders! I wish I had a student example to share with you but from what I can remember, they wrote things like, "Some may argue that more cars equals more pollution however Pete Pizza will offer cars that run on electricity."

After our debate, students completed their planning by adding a conclusion. They wrote things like, "Obviously Kate Ketchup is the best choice for mayor," and, "In my opinion you should vote for Pete Pizza." Then they proceeded through the stages of the writing process. When they reached the Publishing stage, they composed their final draft as a letter to the citizens of Pickle City. And when all was said and done, our classroom was covered with campaign posters, voting booths, and ticket ballots. 

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