Writing About Reading: Opinion Writing in a K-1 Collaboration
Opinions. We all have them. Making a convincing argument in support of our opinions takes some thought. When I began thinking about how to tie reading and writing together in the primary classroom, I naturally went to students sharing opinions on their favorite text through writing. Kindergartners and first graders know how to verbalize these opinions, but putting them into words takes modeling and practice. Through shared writing, modeling and even a little interactive writing students shared their opinions through reading, voting with ballots and coming up with reasoning behind their opinion.
It all started when we got a letter from Mrs. Sheldon’s Kindergarten class down the hall. They had been reading books by Mo Willems and wanted to share what they liked with us! The kindergarten class had voted on their favorite Pigeon book and wrote the letter about their favorite choice through interactive writing with their teacher. This form of writing encompasses many skills. It heightens engagement, encourages participation and allows for students to be part of the process while learning through modeling the conventions of writing. The class had overwhelmingly selected The Duckling Gets a Cookie as their favorite. Below is their letter and graph. Click on the image to enlarge.
The class sent over the books, the letter and their graph depicting the winner. We got busy re-reading the books to refresh our memory. Students remembered engaging in the same author study in kindergarten and were eager to share information back with these younger students.
Following the readings, the class voted on their favorite pigeon book using a sticky note ballot. This was a quick and easy way to determine the winner. Here is an example of how we voted. You could also have students place their sticky note ballot directly on the book.
After all the sticky notes ballots were tallied, we determined our winner, Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! However, each student still had their own personal favorite. What could we do to get people to read other pigeon books that students enjoyed? Share our opinions! We decided to come up with good reasons other students should read our own personal favorites. Students broke up into groups with their favorite book. They re-read the story as a group and got busy generating ideas about what made the book special. This form of small group collaboration gets all the students involved and requires some independent practice as well with peer support. They worked together to form their list and all were able to share in the process.
Above is an example of the form we used when recording our reasons. We shared our opinions as a group and decided to write a letter back to Mrs. Sheldon thanking her class for the books. We included our lists of reasons along with our feelings about why all the pigeon books are wonderful stories to share.
When finished with this project, students had been engaged in several forms of writing and collaborating with peers. Myself and Mrs. Sheldon collaborated as a teacher team to come up with the idea and decide how the process would take shape. I would encourage you to join forces with your colleagues too. Together you will find ways to merge your ideas and create opportunities for your students.
I’d like to thank Mrs. Sheldon, some of you know her as a slicer, Robin, for sharing with us and collaborating with me on this project. You can read more ideas at her blog, Teaching Tomorrow’s Leaders, where she shares her thoughts on writing in the kindergarten classroom.