I am so excited to be a part of the Bright Ideas linky party again! This is where 150 AWESOME bloggers write a post about something that is REALLY working for them. There is NOTHING to buy in any of these blog posts. JUST GREAT IDEAS!
So for me, I am writing about how I use debates in my 2nd grade opinion writing unit. It is AWESOME and totally working for me.
Four years ago when I started at my current school, I was new to opinion writing. I read I Wanna Iguana only to find out they read it the year before. And then to find out the 3rd grade teacher also uses it in her opinion writing unit. As well as the 4th grade teacher. And the 5th grade teacher... then when I looked closely at the standard, I noticed there is NOTHING about writing a persuasive essay. Persuasive seems more complex than writing opinions supported by reasons. And for a 2nd grader, maybe basic is better?
So I looked around for ideas of what kids could state their opinion about. I found PLENTY of boring suggestions. I tried to come up with three reasons of my own for why I like apples...and was stumped.
But then I thought about how our kids are CONSTANTLY telling us their opinions about everything, i.e. "Miss Swanson, I liked it better when you had long hair." Thanks Jimmy.
So the question became, "WHY do you think that"? I figured out you need a deeper topic with room for strong opinions.
We started doing actual debates in our class and it was an instant success! When students feel passionate about something, they can think up tons of reasons! If they are really passionate, they will be happy to write their opinions and reasons until the sun comes up as long as they know their opinion will be heard.
For the past two years, I have started my opinion unit with a short scene from the Pixar movie "Up". On both years, my class has divided nearly evenly on the question: "Should Mr. Fredrickson go give at Shady Oaks retirement village, or should he live his life on his own". I have them separate themselves from what happens at the end of the movie and think about what is best for Mr. Fredrickson and the community. LOTS of opinions coming from 7 year olds!
I have started to find debate topics in nearly all of my fiction read alouds! Yesterday we debated whether or not The Little Red Hen should share her food. Then today, we read "The Ant and the Grasshopper" and the question came up, "should the ants help the Grasshopper?". I am AMAZED by the deep thinking!
This unit is SO perfect to use along with letter writing. Also, I teach formal vs. informal language because each letter is to a different person or character and in REAL LIFE, our language changes depending on who we are writing to. Since these letters are listing multiple reasons, it is also PERFECT for teaching transition words and varying sentence beginnings.
So when your opinion writing unit comes up and you are looking for ideas outside of "I Wanna Iguana" or "what is your favorite fruit and why?", you should try a debate!