Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Teaching the Persuasive Writing Unit: Step One

Fourth graders are now responsible for five writing genres, writing genres they may be tested on during spring standardized tests. The genres include persuasive, personal narrative, fictional narrative, reading response, and informational text.  Since many fourth graders are coming to fourth grade with paragraph writing skills, this expectation is certainly a leap. To make that leap even greater, students at this time are required to handwrite all of these genres, something that few to no adults who write ever do.

Putting the challenge and leap factor aside, I'm diving into the persuasive unit.  I started by "high schooling" the fourth grade children and teaching too much at once in the first lesson. We were all frustrated. I didn't want to baby step them into the unit because when you start too slow the ones who are ready to leap get frustrated. I like to start with a burst so the ones who are ready can run with it, and then I work with those that face more challenge with the concept.

After the initial struggle, we back stepped a bit with some structure and discussion. Most were off and writing. Today we listened to some inspirational, humorous persuasive speeches and effective strategy videos. I created a website with a number of resources for student guidance.  Our system has also hired a consultant to work with us.

In the weeks ahead we'll engage in discrete activities and lots of persuasive writing using writing workshop and the writing process. Our team is taking the time to share ideas and challenges which are helping all of us to do a better job.  I'm listening closely to students' questions and observing their needs and style to figure out the best way to teach this unit to these children.  I admit I've been frustrated a few times, but that's not uncommon when you're teaching a unit for the first time--it's as much a learning process for the teacher as the students.

We've planned about four times a week for this unit which lasts a month. I told students that they'll be so good at writing persuasive text that by the end of the unit their parents may ask us to take the unit off the program because parents will never get their way anymore