Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Writing Workshop

Persuade Me!

I recently had the pleasure of working with Heather Matichuk on writing with her grade 6 students. 
 Kelly Gallagher says, “Writing well does not begin with teaching students how to write; it begins with teaching students why they should write.”  It was evident Heather had spent time earlier sharing the many purposes or reasons writers write with her students. We also shared some real-world examples of why being a persuasive person/writer would come in handy.  And so… our persuasive writing unit began.
As an introduction to persuasive writing we engaged students in oral activities that would help build their understanding of a well-constructed argument and to see both sides of an argument.  These included:

Sorting Activity from First Steps Writing Resource Book

Arguing Both Sides from Texts and Lessons for Content-Area Reading by Harvey Daniels and Nancy Steineke

Writing is more interesting and fun to read when it is filled with voice, so we spent some time explicitly teaching the voice trait. We asked students to revise a short piece where the voice was absent. We used the picture book Dear Mrs. LaRue Letters from Obedience School by Mark Teague as our mentor text because it is filled with voice.  We also asked students to identify the persuasive writing techniques that were used in this picture book.
Anchor charts were useful to keep track of our learning.  Some anchor charts we created included: 

Tips for Writing with Voice

Persuasive Writing Techniques

Lead Sentence and Opening Paragraph

Closing Paragraph

We often noticed students referring to the charts during independent writing time. 
The minilessons for the opening and closing paragraphs were based on Lori Rog's Marvelous Minilessons for Teaching Intermediate Writing, Grades 4-6.
Throughout the unit we shared short persuasive writing text with the class and asked them to identify the persuasive writing techniques used. We encouraged them to try some of these techniques in their own writing. Many of the short text was from the professional resource Writing to Persuade by Karen Caine.
Although students are usually provided choice when it comes to graphic organizers to plan their writing, we chose the graphic organizer Lori suggested in her book.

Heather completed a shared writing lesson using the graphic organizer.  The class chose a topic and argued both sides. They generated  reasons for each argument, and gathered evidence by looking at the research.   From there they took one reason, along with the evidence and as a class composed a paragraph.  Finding evidence to support their opinions can be quite challenging for our students.  Quite often they will come up with another opinion to support their opinion. 
Therefore it was important to give our students time to do research. They needed to find accurate facts and statistics to back up their arguments.  Heather had spent time earlier with her class talking about reliable websites and doing searches, so students were very competent and independent with this task.

Without question, the students produced some quality writing.  They were engaged and their stamina and hard work paid off.
They are planning to share their work with the Grade 3 class, who will also be working on persuasive writing.They will create a class book of their writing and place it in the library, so a larger audience has access to it.
This class was a perfect example of a community of writers!
 Please read Heather's reflection of  our experience. 

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