Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Collaborative Learning Design: Persuasive Essay

Our English Language Arts Director is leading a collaborative learning design effort related to writing persuasive text. She began this effort last year by facilitating scope and sequence planning sessions. During those sessions teachers aligned the new standards to the school year schedule. She also began a series of consultant and teacher team efforts to develop the curriculum, assess student work, and build effective practice. Leslie Laud, representing Hill Literacy, is the consultant.

I think this work is exactly what we should be doing in schools for the following reasons:
  • Teachers should be working together with common goals for teaching children well.
  • Time should be set aside for meaningful, purposeful teacher collaboration.
  • We should be assessing students' work regularly, discussing those assessments, and building our practice for best effect.
  • If deemed necessary, the addition of an outside consultant can be helpful, but it is important to keep the school context and teacher voice and choice alive in this effort as the teachers will be the ones who will keep the practice growing in the days, months, and years ahead to teach children well.
  • Throughout the unit teachers are often talking about the focus, sharing ideas, strategizing, and working together. This is very positive.
At this point in the effort, we've achieved the initial goals of teaching children the genre of persuasive writing through examples and modeling. We've practiced self regulation mnemonics and speak, and students and teachers have written many persuasive essays. I've been hosting the class work and efforts in this website

Now it's time to work with greater depth. Children's last assessment showed that they have format, voice, and structure, but now they need to work with greater effort on the details, facts and language that support a terrific persuasive essay. If you've written persuasive text, you know that's not easy. Trying to come up with the best examples and evidence to prove your point takes thought, writing skill, and time. As children continue to work on the latest essay topic, "Should Children Have Homework?," I'll make time to review the many ways we can include details and facts to prove the opinion chosen. I came up with a longer mnemonic to lead this, "FEEDS TREE WELL."  Sounds crazy, but it was as close as I could get to building the TREE mnemonic we're using to extend their writing. Essentially FEEDS is a mnemonic for the detail/fact types that support a good fourth grade persuasive essay. TREE is the mnemonic for structure, and WELL is the mnemonic for using linking words and extraordinary language.  

It will be a bit laborious as we play with this concept today, but I'll make the time to lead the children through each step with the knowledge that if they take the time to remember the mnemonic (and write it down if needed), think, and use three-four details or facts for each of the three reasons in their essay, they'll have a much better chance of convincing their audience to agree with their opinion, and just think that might mean a change in homework. I've created a few visuals to guide student work which I've shared in this post. I'll let you know how it goes. 

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