Empowering Writers

February 2014 Lesson of the Month

Not sure whether this newsletter finds you bundled up in front of the fire, the wind and snow howling outside, or basking in the sunshine…but here at the Empowering Writers home office in Monroe, CT we’ve been grumbling about the latest “Arctic Vortex” that’s brought single digit temperatures and wind chills that are too frosty to mention. Everyone seems to have strong feelings about the weather. Some like it hot, some not…so what better time for an opinion lesson on the weather! Our Lesson of the Month can be adjusted for students of just about any age.

Teacher Background: In opinion writing, students are asked to express a point of view, and to support that point of view with reasons. Reasons should include specific examples that are well elaborated so that the reader gets a real sense of the ‘why’ behind the opinion. As students mature, it’s also helpful for them to look beyond their own opinion and begin examining the alternate point of view. In other words, in gathering thoughts and feelings about an issue, question, event, activity, or topic, the careful writer will seek to explore why someone might feel differently. They’ll assess the “pros’ and ‘cons’. Not only does this exercise help them to form a more powerful case by gently refuting the opposing view, but it also builds tolerance and understanding for people who may think very differently from you.

Procedure:

1) Ask the class to think about (or imagine) living in a cold, snowy climate. Discuss what that might be like. Explain that you’ll be asking their opinion about different aspects of living in a cold climate. Have the class generate a list of cold weather occurrences and chart these.

Ex.

snow skiing | watching the snow fall | layers of clothing | Drinking hot cocoa | snowmobiling | snowball fights | fire in fireplace | Chopping wood for fire | chapped lips | cold and flu| Frostbite | power outages | school cancellations | ice hockey| Ice fishing | frozen pipes| slippery highways| cabin fever | Ice skating | sledding | making a snowman | shoveling snow

2) Explain “PRO” (in favor of) and “CON” (against). For older students you might make a chart of alternate language to express this:

PRO CON

like dislike

support oppose

love hate

enjoy loath

3) Using a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” have students respond to each cold climate occurrence on your class chart. Tally the votes and show the majority opinion by writing either a “P” for pro or a “C” for con in front of each.

4) For younger students you can end with a winter art project in which they illustrate one of the winter occurrences. Then have them write a sentence or two (more if they can) expressing their opinion about it. Provide the following sentence starters:

I really love __________ I always enjoy __________. It’s fun to __________. I’m in favor of __________. In my opinion, __________. I dislike __________. I’m opposed to __________. It’s easy to loath __________ Etc.

5) For older students, extend this lesson using the attached pdf’s. This requires them to examine the flip side of an issue and refute a claim they might disagree with using what we call the “yes, but” technique. Opinion Lesson from our Essential Guide to Grade 4 Writing

6) Optional extension – take a number of your charted winter occurrences and have the class write side by side opinion and factual sentences – compare and discuss.

Ex. Building a snowman is so much fun! (opinion)

Building snowmen is a winter tradition in many places (fact).

7) Close the lesson by having students discuss how opinions might be formed. What might influence a person’s opinion? What might change a person’s opinion?

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