Our 5th Grade social studies class has been studying the Civil War, and will soon be writing an essay from the perspective of one side, either North or South. As a precursor to the whole essay being written, I went in to teach them a single skill about connotations and how powerful your word choice can be when making statements.
To begin the lesson, we used EW’s Skill Power! powerpoint, that I have included for you, to give a little background and practice on connotation. For this class, I was teaching a social studies lesson, but all my 7th-grade STAAR teachers or tested argument writing teachers out there, you will want to take advantage of this lesson with your writers too! It is such a powerful lesson on vocabulary and word choice.
After the powerpoint, I gave the students a card randomly. It either had North or South on it to represent the sides at battle during the war. After turning their cards over, they then moved to the two sides of the room located on their index card. I had the groups tell me the strengths of their side and they took turns writing them on the whiteboard for the class to see.
I then put up the connotations that I wanted them to use for this lesson. Since it was the first time they had learned this, I gave them both the positive and negative language. However, on another day it would be fun to give students only the negative and have them put their own positive spin on the words. (notice I didn’t say have them put a negative spin on it. I’m a glass full kind of person, and I think it is too easy for our kids to be negative. I want them thinking positively!
Students began working with partners or small groups to help develop sentences that either supported their side or were against it. They used a strength from their side plus a word from the connotations list to write their sentence on the back of their index card. I was teaching this in an inclusion class of 24 boys. YES! ALL BOYS! It actually worked out well. We all know how excited boys get about war! My point is, that my groups looked different within this same class. Some needed a larger support system with the help of the classroom teacher or myself, while others worked in partners or individually.
During the last 10-15 minutes of class I had a few students from each side, North and South, share their sentences and I charted them up on the chart paper. There were some sentences that needed a little revision. This was a great opportunity to give my suggestions and revise with the whole class as I wrote their sentences on the posters. Modeling how we edit and revise sentences, as an adult, is life changing for students who don’t know how to find their own mistakes in their writing. No matter the subject or grade you teach, you always want to model the expectation for the students to follow. You will find that more student samples will be done correctly, rather than junk that you have to spend another class period correcting. AKA fixin’, for my fellow Texans:).