Opinion Writing with Whole Brain Teaching

11:41 AM

Being that I am a math coach, most people would be surprised to know that my second favorite subject to teach is WRITING! Yes, you heard me right! I love to teach writing! I love helping students to tap into their creative abilities and to become great authors. This isn’t always easy. Before becoming a math coach, I was a fourth grade teacher and in Florida fourth grade is the writing grade. It is the first time that students have to sit and write for 120 minutes. AHHH! WHHATTT! NOOOOOOO! Those are the phrases that come from the mouths of my students when they first hear it, but that tune soon changes once my writing instruction begins. How do I get my students to buy in? By teaching the writing standards and combining it with a bit of Whole Brain Teaching!

With Whole Brain Teaching, I use a lot of gestures and repetition to get the most important parts of the lesson to stick. For today’s post I am going to walk you through a day in my classroom when I am introducing my students to opinion writing and writing an opinion introduction paragraph. So join my class and learn the 5 steps I use to teach this very important topic to my scholars. Are you ready? Let’s Go!

Today, we are going to learn how to write an introduction paragraph to an opinion essay in 5 easy steps!

Step 1: The first thing I need is my hook or my grabber. I model this first by turning my finger into a hook and then reaching out like I’m going to grab something. The students repeat it back to me and then they turn to their neighbor to repeat it 3 more times before I call their attention back to the front. We then move on to a discussion of what a hook or grabber actually is and how writers use different methods to grab your attention and make you want to read. If time permits we will open up a few books to get a few examples. We then use a topic to come up with a few examples of our own. I generally give them a list of the types of grabbers they can choose from. I try to lead them to choose 1 or 2 and help them get really good at writing them for any topic. This helps make sure that when they go to write on the test that they all know how to begin.

Step 2: The second thing I need is my counter claim, it’s what the other people say. I again model this by throwing my hand to the side. It’s almost like a whatever, who cares type of expression. I want my students to understand that while the counter claim is important to refute, it should not take up a lot of room in their opinion piece. We pretty much follow the same process as step 1 for each of that additional steps. In this step I do provide them with some sentence frames that help them to formulate counterclaims in the beginning. As the year goes on, I begin to take those away and have students formulate their own.

Step 3: The third thing I need is my opinion, it’s what I care most about. I model this by putting my hands next to my head when I say my opinion and next to my heart when I say it’s what I care most about. I want students to know that this is the basis of their paper, and this is what the majority of their paper should be focused on. We have that conversation and again I provide them with sentence frames to get them started. As the year goes on, I slowly take them away. I am often surprised with the things my kids come up with when they don’t have the stems to rely on anymore. For my struggling writers, I do encourage the frame and just like the hooks I encourage them to find one and get really good at using it.

Step 4: The fourth thing I need are my reasons, to support my opinion. This one is a little dramatic for me because I need the students to understand that their reasons are important. If your reasons are to narrow, you won’t have much to write about. If your reasons are too broad, they may lead you off topic. We have a strong conversation about how to choose the most appropriate reasons, even if you don’t necessarily like the reasons. Guess what students? No one will ever know. I model this by saying the 4th thing I need are my reasons (throwing my hands out dramatically) to support my opinion (placing my hands on top of my head). I place my hands on the top of my head because in the previous step our opinion is stated pointing to our head. This reminds students that the opinion is something they come up with. It’s what they think and it’s what they believe.

Step 5: The last thing I need is my concluding sentence, to kiss it goodbye. Finally, this is model with a kiss on the hand and pulling it away from my mouth. (I might have to come up with something else for this one, thanks COVID). But this reminds kids that the sentence should be short and succinct and that it should let their readers know that we are transitioning to another paragraph.

This is pretty much how I teach every aspect of writing in my classroom. I have similar structures for the body paragraphs, the conclusion paragraph, for editing and revising, and just about every other aspect of writing. It makes teaching writing a lot of fun, and it makes it stick for my students. It’s funny to see them perform the gestures as they take the test, and it’s very rewarding because I know they are on the right track.

If you are interested in some of the resources that I’ve made to teach these concepts, check the out here.

Until next month, I hope that you take easy and take some time to enjoy your summer!

by The Playbook

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