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?