Opinion-Persuasive-Argument Writing

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

     The Anchor Standards for the Common Core for W1 says that students "write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence."  Yet, when you click on the Kindergarten version of W1, it says:

     You'll notice the word opinion is there instead of argument.  The word opinion has caused me to have some impassioned arguments about writing in the last few weeks.  And, I suppose, that is the point the Common Core was trying to make.  

     Everything starts somewhere.  The Common Core started in college, and they decided that they wanted our students to be capable of discussing two sides of a debatable issue.  They wanted our students to be able to state a claim, explore counterclaims, and take enough of a stance without taking a stance so that their claim was put out in the world as balanced and informed, yet still holds true to their claim.  This is a grand goal, and it takes some getting there.  They worked backwards, and at 5th grade they connected the genre of opinion to argument by putting it in the same standard ladder.   The truth is, if we never start our kinder students on stating opinions or preferences, we would never get to them being about to argue a debatable issue with objectivity by middle school.  

     In the last few weeks, as our district starts to prepare for Quarter 3 and most schools start to introduce the genre of opinion/argument writing to our students, I seem to catch people off guard when I mention that opinion and argument writing are connected.  I think people misunderstand me and think I mean they are the same.  THEY ARE NOT.  This chart below from Smekens Education does a nice job of explaining that.

     In order to teach the argumentative standards, you need to begin with the opinion standards in grades K-5.  As the children become more skilled writers, they are able to basically debate on a piece of paper a topic that they are aligned to, but know how to write it so skillfully that they remain balanced, credible, and formal. Their purpose for writing is different, their audience is different, and their craft moves are different.  But, at the heart of both, is a perspective.  A tiny idea, expressed either as an opinion, or as a claim.  Once they decide which, it changes they way they write.

     You noticed I never mentioned persuasive, right?  That's because the Common Core doesn't either.  That's an issue, because if you look at the opinion column, and then the argumentative column, you realize that there is quite a big jump.  Persuasive writing is the beginning of the awareness of perspective, and the acknowledgement that others don't always have the same perspective.  Lucy Calkins Units of Study kept some persuasive writing in for K-5, and that is a good choice to make.  Once kids can state an opinion, it's good for them to try to get someone to agree with them.  This is a tangible step towards debate.  One sided, but a step just the same.

     Some well known education gurus use the words argument and persuasive synonymously.  

     Some well know education gurus use the words opinion and persuasive synonymously.

     I happen to see them as all different, yet forever connected in the same genre of writing.  

     Smekens does a nice job of comparing persuasive an argument writing in two annotated samples about the same topic (animal testing).  You can read it here.  It would be good to start the argument genre by comparing samples like this, side by side, to help students see the different structures of the genres so that they are better able to know when to write in opinion/persuasive/argument form.  They truth is, all have a purpose.  

Did you want to read more about opinion/ persuasive/ argument writing?  Here are some of my favorite gurus.

Christina Smekens explores the three types writing.

Sunday Cummins talks a bit about the CCSS and argument writing.  

Cult of Pedagogy teaches us her step by step plan for teaching argument writing!

Looking for student writing samples?  Check out these from the Vermont Writing Collaborative.  

     Are you an elementary teacher who wants to get a better understanding of the difference between opinion and persuasive writing?  This graphic (WritingWithSharonWatson.com) does a nice job exploring those two genres around the same topic.

     How would you take the topic of dogs and turn it into an argumentative paper?  Well, first students would have to research dogs and find a debatable issue about them.  They'd align with the strongest stance, continue their research and then write their paper.  In it, they'd use a third person point of view to remain objective, while supporting claims with credible support and data, and even acknowledging counter claims.  

     Nope, opinion is not the same as argument in it's final product.  That's clear.  But, somewhere in that paper, there are lessons students learned in their elementary days about opinion writing.  They have just grown into writers who are ready for the craft of formal arguments. 

Quick Quiz!  Which kind of paper would each of these sentences produce?

     I like beagles. 

     You should get a pet beagle. 

     Dogs prevent their owners from getting sick.  If a person owns a dog, their immunity grows stronger.

     Opinion, persuasive, and argument writing are NOT the same, but opinion, persuasive, and argument writing are related.  And, I like beagles.  :)

     Someday, I'll talk about the CCSS and the genre of poetry.  Perhaps I'll even write a persuasive letter to the writers of the CCSS and see if they will add it.   See, all 3 have a purpose. :)

#OneWord2018: Organize

Monday, January 1, 2018

     My previous #onewords were present (2016) and confident (2017).  In my #bestnine on Instagram, I see evidence of both words!  I see opportunities where I was present with those in my life, and times when I remembered to be confident even in times of uncertainty and challenge.  I believe in the power of one word.  But what should my new word be?  

     I then stared around my kitchen table, filled with clutter...  I looked at my desktop, filled with files and screenshots and randomness.  I made a to do list, and I couldn't even process where to start first.  

     Organize.  I need to organize

     I almost went with declutter (as in declutter my mind and space).  But, after looking at the definition of declutter, I realized that my goal isn't to ultimately remove unnecessary items from my life.  It's more to organize my life so that I can declutter if necessary.   So, I looked up organize.

     When I read the definition of organize, I actually discovered it was the perfect word for me.  While my initial reason was just to be organized in my actual space and environment, I read that and realized that the word can mean so much more.  I had searched it as a verb, not as the adjective that I had originally intended on.  As a Literacy Coordinator currently working on an aligned curriculum with many groups of people coming together to make that happen, I realize that organize will help me me more successful with that, too.  

     The adjective (organized) works, too.  Perhaps not that organized crime example, but more like an organized Google Drive.  :)

     Here we go, 2018!  If I don't become organized, at least I have the intent to organize.  That's a step forward, right?

25 Days of Classrooms: Better Together in D100!

Sunday, December 24, 2017

This month I am sharing stories from
classrooms in Berwyn South District 100.

Day 25!!!!  Better Together in D100!

     #25DaysofClassrooms!  I really wanted to celebrate the wonderful things going on in our district, so I decided to write about classrooms across all of our 8 schools in the first 25 days of December.  My goal was to spread a bit of holiday cheer in the form of professional recognition and gratitude for the spirit of collaboration I see in D100.  As the month got busier, I started to fall a bit behind.  But, I did it!  #thatwasclose

     Here, on Day 25, I want to recognize everyone in Berwyn South District 100.  We are truly better together.  All 8 schools have opened their doors to me in 2017, and I look forward to 2018 to get to know you all even more.  Thanks for helping me learn and grow as an educator by being in your rooms, in your meetings, and through conversations.

25 Days of Classrooms: Essential Questions

This month I am sharing stories from
classrooms in Berwyn South District 100.

Day 24: Essential Questions to Guide the Learning with Mike Saracini (Freedom)

     Mike Saracini is a pretty innovative teacher.  I have been watching his classroom for years, in his elementary days, during his summer school days, and at Freedom.  He always teaches me something, and I usually tease him about his pop up green screen.  :)


     This year, I stopped in his class during the week of 9/11.  This time, I was just stunned into silence, as were his students.  He had them watching videos and viewing images from that day so long ago now, but yet seems just like yesterday to those of us who lived through it.  To these kids, though, it was like they were hearing about it for the first time.  They were sitting silent in the halls and at their seats, stunned.


     A former student of mine from 2nd grade, now an 8th grader, called me over to talk to me about his thoughts after viewing The Falling Man.  Instantly, I was back in my classroom in 2001, listening to my then 2nd graders describe the images they were seeing on TV.  Today, I was hearing a touching reflection from a student that I have always found to be thoughtful and wise beyond his years.  I was touched to tears.

     Mike didn't want his students just to respond to the media.  He didn't just throw some links together when he saw the date approaching on the calendar.  He was very intentional, and wanted to promote inquiry.  So, on that day when he started the lesson, he posed this essential question:

How has life changed in my community, city, or state because of 9/11?

     He didn't want facts or dates or random information.  He wanted to know the impact it had on our lives.  That essential question is so very important to all of history.  In this case, it certainly helped his students understand, and I'm sure they will never forget.

     Thanks, Mike, for letting me walk in that day.  It made a huge impact on me.

25 Days of Classrooms: Reading Intervention

This month I am sharing stories from
classrooms in Berwyn South District 100.

Day 23: Reading Intervention with Colleen Noffsinger (K-2 Literacy Coach/ Specialist at Piper)


     Watching Colleen Noffsinger teach her intervention group made me think of multiple literacy experts. I saw Jan Richardson, mixed with Burkins and Yaris, with Jennifer Serravallo sprinkled in.  I'd even throw in some Pat Cunningham.  She was using texts from the LLI, but she knew how and when to use strategies and language that would better meet the needs of her kids than the information suggested by Fountas and Pinnell for that text.  She knows her kids, and her literacy stuff.  The truth is, Colleen knows strategies of all those gurus, but her delivery is all Mrs. Noffsinger.  She has made all that knowledge her own.


     I was actually watching Colleen teach a lesson, while another literacy coach and reading specialist from our district were observing her, too.  Not only is she an expert reading interventionist, she is a really great mentor.  After the lesson, she explained her thinking, and showed us where she finds some of her favorite resources.  She truly believes that we are #bettertogether.


     Colleen has some great reading strategies and tips up her sleeve, like this sight word entry code!  If you ever have the chance to stop by her room, please do.  You are guaranteed to walk away with a reading tip, and a new book title.  It's worth a walk outside to the Little Red Schoolhouse at Piper.

25 Days of Classrooms: Stories that Come to Life!

This month I am sharing stories from
classrooms in Berwyn South District 100.

Day 22: Stories that Come to Life with Hiawatha Kindergarten


      In Mrs. Gage, Mrs. Alper, Mrs. Tameling, and Ms. Gelacios' kindergarten rooms, they start the fall off reading fairy tales. They read lots of fairy tales, and they talk about what makes it a fairy tale.  But, they don't stop there.  Let's use The Three Little Pigs, for example.

 They try some real porridge.

 They analyze and graph the stories.

They make houses out of sticks, bricks, and straw, and try to huff and puff and blow them down (with a hairdryer!).

     The kindergarten team at Hiawatha does a really nice job of bringing the stories they read to life.  Literacy is not just about reading the words on the page.  It's about making meaning and learning about the world, too.  They need to be able to read the pictures, read the words, retell the stories, and learn life lessons in the process.

     They don't stop making books come to life in the fall, though.  They continue it all year long!  Here is what they were up to last week when they read The Gingerbread Man!  Click the link in the tweet below, or take this link to watch a video of The Gingerbread Man coming to life.  :)

      Thanks, Kara, Melissa, Rita, and Lily for making literacy FUN!  A shout out goes to Jodi Meyer for being the Gingerbread Man, and to Kirstin McGinnis for supporting the fun.

25 Days of Classrooms: Dot Day!

This month I am sharing stories from
classrooms in Berwyn South District 100.

Day 21: Dot Day with Lori Horne, Kayla Kaczmarek, and Anna Waszak (5th and 1st at Hiawatha)

     This classroom visit takes us back to September to visit with some 1st graders and 5th graders who celebrated International Dot Day!  This day celebrates the book The Dot by Peter Reynolds, and his challenge for all of us to make our own mark in the world.  


    The first graders in Ms. Kaczmarek and Mrs. Waszak's room read the book, and then did a tissue paper activity where they explored with colors and creativity.  The literacy coach, Mrs. McGinnis, came to be their guest reader before they unleashed their creativity making their own dots.

     My favorite part?  They all signed my copy of The Dot!


     After that, I headed upstairs for a 5th grade celebration of Dot Day.  I read the book to Mrs. Horne's class, and then she had them do a Breakout EDU with clues all around the room!  When they got it open, it was a challenge to make their own mark, so that is exactly what they did.


     Here is a video capturing their celebrations!

     Want a few for resources?  Here is a link to a website all about International Dot Day, and a link to the video that we watched as Peter Reynolds gave us an art lesson.

     If you are looking for someone in D100 to talk about Breakout EDU lessons, talk to Lori Horne!  She has become a bit of a pro at them.  :)

      Thank you Kayla, Anna, Lori, and Kristin for taking some time to celebrate literacy with your kids!