Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Workshop Wednesday-Opinion Writing

I can't believe it is March 12, and outside it looks like January!  I am home today for another snow day in this longest winter ever! This is what it looks like out my front door right now.  I'm so over it!




I feel like a huge slacker because I haven't blogged since Valentine's Day!  Of course there are a million excuses like being sick, hockey tournaments, being evaluated, parent-teacher conferences, etc.  But I'm still disappointed that I haven't maintained my one post a week goal.  So, I'm taking advantage of this snow day to link up with Ideas by Jivey for Workshop Wednesday to talk about opinion writing.

This was the second year I have taught the Literary Essay unit put together by Oakland Schools and the second year that I have really struggled with it.  In talking with my colleagues, I discovered I am not the only one who secretly dreads this unit.  I'm not exactly sure why we are having such a hard time with it.  One thing that I think is a problem is the type of writing expected in the unit is a huge jump from what they have learned to do before.  So, I decided to back up and do some opinion writing that I felt would give us a better starting point to developing the literary essay.

I read two books to my students, A Bad Case of Stripes and The Wizard of Wallaby Wallow.  



After reading each book, students discussed what they felt the theme or author's message was.  We also discussed how the books are similar.  They both deal with characters who at first are unhappy because they feel like they can't be themselves but at the end realize they have to accept who they are.  The students then write an opinion essay responding to the following prompt:  A Bad Case of Stripes and The Wizard of Wallaby Wallow both show that people are happier when they accept themselves for who they are.  Do you agree or disagree?  Students are expected to write an essay that includes a clear position statement and support for their position from each of the books.  

One thing I like about teaching opinion writing is that it is easy to use Focus Correction Areas or FCA's.  FCA's are a component of the Collins Writing Program.  When you use FCA's you are telling the students exactly what you are grading them on.  My FCA's for this writing assignment were:  1. Clear position statement (3)/connection between stories (3)=(6), 2. 2 details/examples from each story (10-1 point for naming story, 2 for each example), 3. Complete sentences/paragraphing (10).  

When students are done drafting, I ask for two volunteers who are willing to have their paper graded on the document camera.  It is scary, but I explain to them that the advantage to doing this is they will know exactly what to do to get an A on their essay.  I grade the first volunteer paper in front of the class, only scoring it on the given FCA's. Students then grade the second volunteer's paper with a partner trying to get the same score I will give it.  After I determine if any of them matched my score, I go over how I graded it on the document camera.  (Any partners that matched my score get gum.)

The next day, students get with their scoring partner and try to score the way they think I would.  Students follow the steps on this mini poster.


Students eventually get really good at scoring for the FCA's.  Here are some of my students hard at work.



My students use editing phones (or whisper phones) after they conference and revise and are ready for final editing.  They are really easy to make and not much money.  Students can read aloud their paper to themselves in the quietest voice but hear it loud and clear in the editing phone.  


My husband helped me make my editing phones a few years ago.  You just need some pvc piping and a bunch of pvc elbows.  You cut the pipe into sections about four inches long and then put an elbow on each end.  That's it!



Be sure to stop by Ideas by Jivey to see all the other opinion writing ideas!





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